Fathers of the Church
Commentary on Galatians
by John Chrysostom in Unknown (between 398-404) | translated by The Oxford Translation, Revised By the Rev. Gross Alexander, D.d., Professor of New Testament Greek in Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn
"Paul, an Apostle, (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead;) and all the brethren which are with me, unto the Churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
The exordium is full of a vehement and lofty spirit, and not the exordium only, but also, so to speak, the whole Epistle. For always to address one's disciples with mildness, even when they need severity is not the part of a teacher but it would be the part of a corrupter and enemy. Wherefore our Lord too, though He generally spoke gently to His disciples, here and there uses sterner language, and at one time pronounces a blessing, at another a rebuke. Thus, having said to Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona," (Matt. xvi: 17.)and having promised to lay the foundation of the Church upon his confession, shortly afterwards He says, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art a stumbling block unto Me." (Matt. xvi: 23.) Again, on another occasion, "Are ye also even yet without understanding?" (Matt. xv: 16.) And what awe He inspired them with appears from John's saying, that, when they beheld Him conversing. with the Samaritan woman, though they reminded Him to take food, no one ventured to say, "What seekest Thou, or why speakest thou with her?" (John iv: 27.) Thus taught, and walking in the steps of his Master, Paul hath varied his discourse according to the need of his disciples, at one time using knife and cautery, at another, applying mild remedies. To the Corinthians he says, "What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in a spirit of meekness?" (I Cor. vi: 21.) but to the Galatians, "O foolish Galatians." (Gal. iii: 1 .) And not once only, but a second time, also he has employed this reproof, and towards the conclusion he says with a reproachful allusion to them, "Let no man trouble me; "(Gal. vi: 17). but he soothes them again with the words, "My little children, of whom "I am again in travail:" (Gal. iv: 19.) and so in many other instances.
Now that this Epistle breathes an indignant spirit, is obvious to every one even on the first perusal; but I must explain the cause of his anger against the disciples. Slight and unimportant it could not be, or he would not have used such vehemence. For to be exasperated by common 'matters is the part of the littleminded, morose, and peevish; just as it is that of the more redolent and sluggish to lose heart in weighty ones. Such a one was not Paul, What then was the offence which roused him? it was grave and momentous, one which was estranging them all from Christ, as he himself says further on, "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing;" (Gal. v: 2.) and again, "Ye who would be justified by the Law, ye are fallen away from Grace." (Gal. v: 4.) What then is this? For it must be explained more clearly. Some of the Jews who believed, being held down by the preposessions of Judaism, and at the same time intoxicated by vain-glory, and desirous of obtaining for themselves the dignity of teachers,. came to the Galatians, and taught them that the observance of circumcision, sabbaths, and new-moons, was necessary, and that Paul in abolishing these things was not to be borne. For, said they, Peter and James and John, the chiefs of the Apostles and the companions of Christ, forbade them not. Now in fact they did not forbid these things, but this was not by way of delivering positive doctrine, but in condescension to the weakness of the Jewish believers, which condescension Paul had no need of when preaching to the Gentiles; but when he was in Judaea, he employed it himself also. But these deceivers, by withholding the causes both of Paul's condescension and that of his brethren, misled the simpler ones, saying that he was not to be tolerated, for he appeared but yesterday, while Peter and his colleagues were from the first,—that he was a disciple of the Apostles, but they of Christ,—that he was single, but they were many, and pillars of the Church. They accused him too of acting a part; saying, that this very man who forbids circumcision observes the rite elsewhere, and preaches one way to you and another way to others.
Since Paul then saw the whole Galatian people in a state of excitement, a flame kindled against their Church, and the edifice shaken and tottering to its fall, filled with the mixed feelings of just anger and despondency, (which he has expressed in the words, "I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my voice, "—Gal. iv: 20. )he writes the Epistle as an answer to these charges. This is his aim from the very commencement, for the underminers of his reputation had said, The others were disciples of Christ but this man of the "Apostles." Wherefore he begins thus, "Paul, an Apostle not from men, neither through man." For, these deceivers, as I was saying before, had said that this man was the last of all the Apostles and was taught by them, for Peter, James, and John, were both first called, and held a primacy among the disciples, and had also received their doctrines from Christ Himself; and that it was therefore fitting to obey them rather than this man; and that they forbad not circumcision nor the observance of the Law. By this and similar language and by depreciating Paul, and exalting the honor of the other Apostles, though not spoken for the sake of praising them, but of deceiving the Galatians, they induced them to adhere unseasonably to the Law. Hence the propriety of his commencement. As they disparaged his doctrine, saying it came from men, while that of Peter came from Christ, he immediately addresses himself to this point, declaring himself an apostle "not from men, neither through man." It was Ananias who baptized him, but it was not he who delivered him from the way of error and initiated him into the faith; but Christ Himself sent from on high that wondrous voice, whereby He inclosed him in his net. For Peter and his brother, and John and his brother, He called when walking by the seaside, (Matt. iv: 18.) but Paul after His ascension into heaven. (Acts. ix: 3, 4.) And just as these did not require a second call, but straightway left their nets and all that they had, and followed Him, so this man at his first vocation pressed vigorously forward, waging, as soon as he was baptized, an implacable war with the Jews. In this respect he chiefly excelled the other Apostles, as he says, "I labored more abundantly than they all;" (1 Cor. xv: 10.) at present, however, he makes no such claim, but is content to be placed on a level with them. Indeed his eat object was, not to establish any superiority for himself, but, to overthrow the foundation of their error. The not being "from men" has reference to all alike for the Gospel's root and origin is divine, but the not being "through man" is peculiar to the Apostles; for He called them not by men's agency, but by His own.
But why does be not speak of his vocation rather than his apostolate, and say, "Paul" called "not by man?" Because here lay the whole question; for they said that the office of a teacher had been committed to him by men, namely by the Apostles, whom therefore it behooved him to obey. But that it was not entrusted to him by men, Luke declares in the words, "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul." (Acts xiii: 2.)
From this passage it is manifest that the power of the Son and Spirit is one, for being commissioned by the Spirit, he says that he was commissioned by Christ. This appears in another place, from his ascription of the things of God to the Spirit, in the words which he addresses to the elders at Miletus: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in the which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops." (Acts xx: 28.) Yet in another Epistle he says, "And God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers." (I Cor. xii: 28.) Thus he ascribes indifferently the things of the Spirit to God, and the things of God to the Spirit. Here too he stops the mouths of heretics, by the words "through Jesus Christ and God the Father;" for, inasmuch as they said this term "through" was applied to the Son as importing inferiority, see what he does. He ascribes it to the Father, thus teaching us not to prescribe laws to the ineffable Nature, nor define the degrees of Godhead which belong to the Father and Son. For to the words "through Jesus Christ" he has added, "and God the Father;" for if at the mention of the Father alone he had introduced the phrase "through whom," they might have argued sophistically that it was peculiarly applicable to the Father, in that the acts of the Son were to be referred to Him. But he leaves no opening for this cavil, by mentioning at once both the Son and the Father, and making his language apply to both. This he does, not as referring the acts of the Son to the Father, but to show that the expression implies no distinction of Essence. Further, what can now be said by those, who have gathered a notion of inferiority from the Baptismal formula,—from our being baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? For if the Son be inferior because He is named after the Father, what will they say seeing that, in the passage before us, the Apostle beginning from Christ proceeds to mention the Father?—but let us not even utter such a blasphemy, let us not swerve from the truth in our contention with them; rather let us preserve, even if they rave ten thousand times, the due measures of reverence. Since then it would be the height of madness and impiety to argue that the Son was greater than the Father because Christ was first named, so we dare not hold that the Son is inferior to the Father, because He is placed after Him in the Baptismal formula. "Who raised Him from the dead."
Wherefore is it, O Paul, that, wishing to bring these Judaizers to the faith, you introduce none of those great and illustrious topics which occur in your Epistle to the Philippians, as, "Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God," (Phil. ii: 6.) or which you afterwards declared in that to the Hebrews, "the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of His substance;" (Heb. i: 3.) or again, what in the opening of his Gospel the son of thunder sounded forth, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;" (John i: 1.) or what Jesus Himself oftentimes declared to the Jews, "that His power and authority was equal to the Father's?" (John v: 19, 27, &c.) Do you omit all these, and make mention of the economy of His Incarnation only, bringing forward His cross and dying? "Yes," would Paul answer. For had this discourse been addressed to those who had unworthy conceptions of Christ, it would have been well to mention those things; but, inasmuch as the disturbance comes from persons who fear to incur punishment should they abandon the Law, he therefore mentions that whereby all need of the Law is excluded, I mean the benefit conferred on all through the Cross and the Resurrection. To have said that "in the beginning was the Word," and that "He was in the form of God, and made Himself equal with God," and the like, would have declared the divinity of the Word, but would have contributed nothing to the matter in hand. Whereas it was highly pertinent thereto to add, "Who raised Him from the dead," for our chiefest benefit was thus brought to remembrance, and men in general are less interested by discourses concerning the majesty of God, than by those which set forth the benefits which come to mankind. Wherefore, omitting the former topic, he discourses of the benefits which bad been conferred on us.
But here the heretics insultingly exclaim, "Lo, the Father raises the Son!" For when once infected, they are wilfully deaf to all sublimer doctrines; and taking by itself and insisting on what is of a less exalted nature, and expressed in less exalted terms, either on account of the Son's humanity, or in honor of the Father, or for some other temporary purpose, they outrage, I will not say the Scripture, but themselves. I would fain ask such persons, why they say this? do they hope to prove the Son weak and powerless to raise one body? Nay, verily, faith in Him enabled the very shadows of those who believed in Him. to effect the resurrection of the dead. (Acts. v: 15.) Then believers in Him, though mortal, yet by the very shadows of their earthly bodies, and by the garments which had touched these bodies, could raise the dead, but He could not raise Himself? Is not this manifest madness, a great stretch of folly? Hast thou not heard His saying, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up?" (John ii: 19.) and again, "I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again?" (John x: 18.) Wherefore then is the Father said to have raised Him up, as also to have done other things which the Son Himself did? It is in honor of the Father, and in compassion to the weakness of the hearers. "And all the brethren which are with me." Why is it that he has on no other occasion in sending an epistle added this phrase? For either he puts his own name only or that of two or three others, but here has mentioned the whole number and so has mentioned no one by name. On what account then does he this?
They made the slanderous charge that he was singular in his preaching, and desired to introduce novelty in Christian teaching. Wishing therefore to remove their suspicion, and to show he had many to support him in his doctrine, he has associated with himself "the brethren," to show that what he wrote he wrote with their accord. "Unto the Churches of Galatia."
Thus it appears, that the flame of error had spread over not one or two cities merely, but the whole Galatian people. Consider too the grave indignation contained in the phrase, "unto the Churches of Galatia:" he does not say, "to the beloved" or "to the sanctified," and this omission of all names of affection or respect, and this speaking of them as a society merely, without the addition "Churches of God," for it is simply "Churches of Galatia," is strongly expressive of deep concern and sorrow. Here at the outset, as well as elsewhere, he attacks their irregularities, and therefore gives them the name of "Churches," in order to shame them, and reduce them to unity. For persons split into many parties cannot properly claim this appellation, for the name of' "Church" is a name of harmony and concord.
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
This he always mentions as indispensible, and in this Epistle to the Galatians especially; for since they were in danger of falling from grace he prays that they may recover it again, and since they had come to be at war with God, he beseeches God to restore them to the same peace. "God the Father."
Here again is a plain confutation of the heretics, who say that John in the opening of his Gospel, where he says "the Word was God," used the word Theo`s without the article, to imply an inferiority in the Son's Godhead; and that Paul, where he says that the Son was "in the form of God," did not mean the Father, because the word Theo`s without the article. For what can they say here, where Paul says, apo` Theou^ Patros, and not apo` tou^ Theou^? And it is in no indulgent mood towards them that he calls God, "Father," but by way of severe rebuke, and suggestion of the source whence they became sons, for the honor was vouch-safed to them not through the Law, but through the washing of regeneration. Thus everywhere, even in his exordium, he scatters traces of the goodness of God, and we may conceive him speaking thus: "O ye who were lately slaves, enemies and aliens, what right have ye suddenly acquired to call God your Father? it was not the Law which conferred upon you this relationship; why do ye therefore desert Him who brought you so near to God, and return to your tutor?
But the Name of the Son, as well as that of the Father, had been sufficient to declare to them these blessings. This will appear, if we consider the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ with attention; for it is said, "thou shalt call His Name Jesus; for it is He that shall save His people from their sins;" (Matt. i: 21.) and the appellation of" Christ" calls to mind the unction of the Spirit. Ver 4. "Who gave himself for our sins." Thus it appears, that the ministry which He undertook was free and uncompelled; that He was delivered up by Himself, not by another. Let not therefore the words of John, "that the Father gave His only-begotten Son" (Jo. iii: 16.) for us, lead you to derogate from the dignity of the Only-begotten, or to infer therefrom that He is only human. For the Father is said to have given Him, not as implying that the Son's ministry was a servile one, but to teach us that it seemed good to the Father, as Paul too has shown in the immediate context: "according to the will of our God, and Father." He says not "by the command," but "according to the will, " for inasmuch as there is an unity of will in the Father and the Son, that which the Son wills, the Father wills also.
"For our sins, says the Apostle; we had pierced ourselves with ten thousand evils, and had deserved the gravest punishment; and the Law not only did not deliver us, but it even condemned us, making sin more manifest, without the power to release us from it, or to stay the anger of God. But the Son of God made this impossibility possible for he remitted our sins, He restored us from enmity to the condition of friends, He freely bestowed on us numberless other blessings.
Ver. 4. "That He might deliver us out of this present evil world."
Another class of heretics seize upon these words of Paul, and pervert his testimony to an accusation of the present life. Lo, say they, he has called this present world evil, and pray tell me what does "world" [age] ai'wn mean but time measured by days and seasons? Is then the distinction of days and the course of the sun evil? no one would assert this even if he be carried away to the extreme of unreasonableness. "But" they say, "it is not the 'time,' but the present ' life,' which he hath called evil.'" Now the words themselves do not in fact say this; but the heretics do not rest in the words, and frame their charge from them, but propose to themselves a new mode of interpretation. At least therefore they must allow us to produce our interpretation, and the rather in that it is both pious and rational. We assert then that evil cannot be the cause of good, yet that the present life is productive of a thousand prizes and rewards. And so the blessed Paul himself extols it abundantly in the words, "But if to live in the flesh, if this is the fruit of my work, then what I shall choose I wont not;" (Phil. i: 22.) and then placing before himself the alternative of living upon earth, and departing and being with Christ, he decides for the former. But were this life evil, he would not have thus spoken of it, nor could any one, however strenuous his endeavor, draw it aside into the service of virtue. For no one would ever use evil for good, fornication for chastity, envy for benevolence. And so, when he says, that "the mind of the flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be, (Rom. viii: 7.) he means that vice, as such, cannot become virtue; and the expression, "evil world," must be understood to mean evil actions, and a depraved moral principle. Again, Christ came not to put us to death and deliver us from the present life in that sense, but to leave us in the world, and prepare us for a worthy participation of our heavenly abode. Wherefore He saith to the Father, "And these are in the world, and I come to Thee; I pray not that Thou shouldest take them from the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil," (Jo. xvii: 11, 15.) i.e., from sin. Further, those who will not allow this, but insist that the present life is evil, should not blame those who destroy themselves; for as he who withdraws himself from evil is not blamed, but deemed worthy of a crown, so he who by a violent death, by hanging or otherwise, puts an end to his life, ought not to be condemned. Whereas God punishes such men more than murderers, and we all regard them with horror, and justly; for if it is base to destroy others, much more is it to destroy one's self. Moreover, if this life be evil, murderers would deserve a crown, as rescuing us from evil. Besides this, they are caught by their own words, for in that they place the sun in the first, and the moon in the second rank of their deities, and worship them as the givers of many goods, their statements are contradictory. For the use of these and the other heavenly bodies, is none other than to contribute to our present life, which they say is evil, by nourishing and giving light to the bodies of men and animals and bringing plants to maturity. How is it then that the constitution of this "evil life is so ministered to by those, who according to you are gods? Gods indeed they are not, far from it, but works of God created for our use; nor is this world evil. And if you tell me of murderers, of adulterers, of tomb-robbers, these things have nothing to do with the present life, for these offences proceed not from that life which we live in the flesh, but from a depraved will. For, if they were necessarily connected with this life, as embraced in one lot with it, no man would be free or pure from them, for no man can escape the characteristic accidents of humanity, such as, to eat and drink, to sleep and grow, to hunger and thirst, to be born and die, and the like; no man can ever become superior to these, neither sinner nor just man, king nor peasant, We all are subject to the necessity of nature. And so if vice were an essential element of this life, no one could avoid it, any more than the things just mentioned. And let me not be told that good men are rare, for natural necessity is insuperable by all, so that as long as one virtuous man shall be found, my argument will in no wise be invalidated. Miserable, wretched man! what is it thou sayest? Is this life evil, wherein we have learnt to know God, and meditate on things to come, and have become angels instead of men, and take part in the choirs of the heavenly powers? What other proof do we need of an evil and .depraved mind?
"Why then," they say, "does Paul call the, present life evil?" In calling the present world [age] evil, he has accommodated himself to our usage, who are wont to say, "I have had a bad day," thereby complaining not of the time itself, Out of actions or circumstances And so Paul in complaining of evil principles of action has used these customary forms of speech; and he shows that Christ hath both delivered us from our offences, and secured us for the future. The first he has declared in the words, "Who gave Himself for our sins;" and by adding, "that He might deliver us out of this present evil world," he has pronounced our future safety. For neither of these did the Law avail, but grace was sufficient for both.
Ver. 4. "According to the will of our God and Father."
Since they were terrified by their notion that by deserting that old Law and adhering to the new, they should disobey God, who gave the Law, he corrects their error, and says, that this seemed good to the Father also: and not simply "the Father," but "our Father," which he does in order to affect them by showing that Christ has made His Father our Father.
Ver. 5. "To whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen."
This too is new and unusual, for we never find the word, "Amen" placed at the beginning of an Epistle, but a good way on; here, however he has it in his beginning,. to show that what he had already said contained a sufficient charge against the Galatians, and that his argument was complete, for a manifest offence does not require an elaborate crimination. Having spoken of the Cross, and Resurrection, of redemption from sin and security for the future, of the purpose of the Father, and the will of the Son, of grace and peace and His whole gift, he concludes with an ascription of praise.
Another reason for it is the exceeding astonishment into which he was thrown by the magnitude of the gift, the superabundance of the grace, the consideration who we were, and what God had wrought, and that at once and in a single moment of time. Unable to express this in words, he breaks out into a doxology, sending up for the whole world an eulogium, not indeed worthy of the subject, but such as was possible to him. Hence too he proceeds to use more vehement language; as if greatly kindled by a sense of the Divine benefits, for having said, "To whom be the glory for ever and ever, Amen," he commences with a more severe reproof.
Ver. 6. "I marvel that ye are so quickly removing front Him that called you in the grace of Christ, unto a different Gospel."
Like the Jews who persecuted Christ, they imagined their observance of the Law was acceptable to the Father, and he therefore shows that in doing this they displeased not only Christ, but the Father also, for that they fell away thereby not from Christ only, but from the Father also. As the old covenant was given not by the Father only, but also by the Son, so the covenant of grace proceeded from the Father as well as the Son, and Their every act is common: "All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine." (John xv: 16.) By saying that they had fallen off from the Father, he brings a twofold charge against them, of an apostasy, and of an immediate apostasy. The opposite extreme a late apostasy, is also blameworthy, but he who falls away at the first onset, and in the very skirmishing, displays an example of the most extreme cowardice, of which very thing he accuses them also saying: "How is this that your seducers need not even time for their designs, but the first approaches suffice for your overthrow and capture? And what excuse can ye have? If this is a crime among friends, and he who deserts old and useful associates is to be condemned, consider what punishment he is obnoxious to who revolts from God that called him." He says," I marvel," not only byway of reproof, that after such bounty, such a remission of their sins, such overflowing kindness, they had deserted to the yoke of servitude, but also in order to show, that the opinion he had had of them was a favorable and exalted one. For, had he ranked them among ordinary and easily deceived persons, he would not have felt surprise. "But since you," he says, "are of the noble sort and have suffered, much, I do marvel." Surely this was enough to recover and lead them back to their first expressions. He alludes to it also in the middle of the Epistle, "Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain." (Gal. iii: 4.) "Ye are removing;" he says not, "ye are removed," that is, "I will not believe or suppose that your seduction is complete;" this is the language of one about to recover them, which further on he expresses yet more clearly in the words, "I have confidence to you-ward in the Lord that ye will be none otherwise minded." (Gal. v: 10.)
"From Him that called you in the grace of Christ."
The calling is from the Father, but the cause of it is the Son. He it is who hath brought about reconciliation and bestowed it as a gift, for we were not saved by works in righteousness: or I should rather say that these blessings proceed from Both; as He says, "Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine." (John xvii: 10.) He says not "ye are removing from the Gospel" but "from God who called you," a more frightful expression, and more likely to affect them. Their seducers did not act abruptly but gradually, and while they removed them from the faith in fact, left names unchanged. It is the policy of Satan not to set his snares in open view; had they urged them to fall away from Christ, they would have been shunned as deceivers and corrupters, but suffering them so far to continue in the faith, and putting upon their error the name of the Gospel, without fear they undermined the building employing the terms which they used as a sort of curtain to conceal the destroyers themselves. As therefore they gave the name of Gospel to this their imposture, he contends against the very name, and boldly says, "unto a different Gospel,"—
Ver. 7. "Which is not another Gospel."
And justly, for there is not another. Nevertheless the Marcionites are misled by this phrase, as diseased persons are injured even by healthy food, for they have seized upon it, and exclaim, "So Paul himself has declared there is no other Gospel." For they do not allow all the Evangelists, but one only, and him mutilated and confused according to their, pleasure. Their explanation of the words, "according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ," (Rom. xvi: 25.) is sufficiently ridiculous; nevertheless, for the sake of those who are easily seduced, it is necessary to refute it. We assert, therefore, that, although a thousand Gospels were written, if the contents of all were the same, they would still be one, and their unity no wise infringed by the number of writers. So, on the other hand, if there were one writer only, but he were to contradict himself, the unity of the things written would be destroyed. For the oneness of a work depends not on the number of its authors, but on the agreement or contradictoriness of its contents. Whence it is clear that the four Gospels are one Gospel; for, as the four say the same thing, its oneness is preserved by the harmony of the contents, and not impaired by the difference of persons. And Paul is not now speaking of the number but of the discrepancy of the things spoken. With justice might they lay hold of this expression, if the Gospels of Matthew and Luke differed in the signification of their contents, and in their doctrinal accuracy; but as they are one and the same, let them cease being senseless and pretending to be ignorant of these things which are plain to the very children.
Ver. 7. "Only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ."
That is to say, ye will not recognize another Gospel, so long as your mind is sane, so long as your vision remains healthy, and free from distorted and imaginary phantoms. For as the disordered eye mistakes the object presented to it, so does the mind when made turbid by the confusion of evil thoughts. Thus the madman confounds objects; but this insanity is more dangerous than a physical malady, for it works injury not in the regions of sense, but of the mind; it creates confusion not in the organ of bodily vision, but in the eye of the understanding.
"And would pervert the Gospel of Christ."
They had, in fact, only introduced one or two commandments, circumcision and the observance of days, but he says that the Gospel was subverted, in order to show that a slight adulteration vitiates the whole. For as he who but partially pares away the image on a royal coin renders the whole spurious, so he who swerves ever so little from the pure faith, soon proceeds from this to graver errors, and becomes entirely corrupted. Where then are those who charge us with being contentious in separating from heretics, and say that there is no real difference between us except what arises from our ambition? Let them hear Paul's assertion, that those who had but slightly innovated, subverted the Gospel. Not to say that the Son of God is a created Being, is a small matter. Know you not that even under the elder covenant, a man who gathered sticks on the sabbath, and transgressed a single commandment, and that not a great one, was punished with death? (Num. xv: 32, 36.) and that Uzzah, who supported the Ark when on the point of being overturned, was struck suddenly dead, because he had intruded upon an office which did not pertain to him? (2 Sam. vi: 6, 7.) Wherefore if to transgress the sabbath, and to touch the falling Ark, drew down the wrath of God so signally as to deprive the offender of even a momentary respite, shall he who corrupts unutterably awful doctrines find excuse and pardon? Assuredly not. A want of zeal in small matters is the cause of all our calamities; and because slight errors escape fitting correction, greater ones creep in. As in the body, a neglect of wounds generates fever, mortification, and death; so in the soul, slight evils overlooked open the door to graver ones. It is accounted a trivial fault that one man should neglect fasting; that another, who is established in the pure faith, dissembling on account of circumstances, should surrender his bold profession of it, neither is this anything great or dreadful; that a third should be irritated, and threaten to depart from the true faith, is excused on the plea of passion and resentment. Thus a thousand similar errors are daily introduced into the Church, and we are become a laughing-stock to Jews and Greeks, seeing that the Church is divided into a thousand parties. But if a proper rebuke had at first been given to those who attempted slight perversions, and a deflection from the divine oracles, such a pestilence would not have been generated, nor such a storm have seized upon the Churches. You will now understand why Paul calls circumcision a subversion of the Gospel. There are many among us now, who fast on the same day as the Jews, and keep the sabbaths in the same manner; and we endure it nobly or rather ignobly and basely. And why do I speak of Jews seeing that many Gentile customs are observed by some among us; omens, auguries, presages, distinctions of days, a curious attention to the circumstances of their children's birth, and, as soon as they are born, tablets with impious inscriptions are placed upon their unhappy heads, thereby teaching them from the first to lay aside virtuous endeavors, and drawing part of them at least under the false domination of fate. But if Christ in no way profits those that are circumcised, what shall faith hereafter avail to the salvation of those who have introduced such corruptions? Although circumcision was given by God, yet Paul used every effort to abolish it, because its unseasonable observance was injurious to the Gospel. If then he was so earnest against the undue maintenance of Jewish customs, what excuse can we have for not abrogating Gentile ones? Hence our affairs are now in confusion and trouble, hence have our learners being filled with pride, reversed the order of things throwing every thing into confusion, and their discipline having been neglected by us their governors, they spurn our reproof however gentle. And yet if their superiors were even more worthless and full of numberless evils, it would not be right for the disciple to disobey. It is said of the Jewish doctors, that as they sat in Moses' seat, their disciples were bound to obey them, though their works were so evil, that the Lord forbad His disciples to imitate them. What excuse therefore is there for those who insult and trample on men, rulers of the Church, and living, by the grace of God, holy lives? If it be unlawful for us to judge each other, much more is it to judge our teachers.
Ver. 8, 9. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any Gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema."
See the Apostle's wisdom; to obviate the objection that he was prompted by vainglory to applaud his own doctrine, he includes himself also in his anathema; and as they betook themselves to authority, that of James and John, he mentions angels also saying, "Tell me not of James and John; if one of the most exalted angels of heaven corrupt the Gospel, let him be anathema." The phrase "of heaven" is purposely added, because priests are also called angels. "For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger [angel] of the Lord of hosts." (Mal. ii: 7.) Lest therefore it should be thought that priests are here meant, by the term "angels," he points out the celestial intelligences by the addition, "from heaven." And he says not, if they preach a contrary Gospel, or subvert the whole of the true one, let them be anathema; but, if they even slightly vary, or incidentally disturb, my doctrine. "As we have said before, so say I now again." That his words might not seem to be spoken in anger, or with exaggeration, or with recklessness he now repeats them. Sentiments may perhaps change, when an expression has been called forth by anger, but to repeat it a second time proves that it is spoken advisedly, and was previously approved by the judgment. When Abraham was requested to send Lazarus, he replied, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them: if they hear them not, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead." (Luke xvi: 31.) And Christ introduces Abraham thus speaking, to show that He would have the Scriptures accounted more worthy of credence, even than one raised from the dead: Paul too, (and when I say Paul, I mean Christ, who directed his mind,)prefers them before an angel come down from heaven. And justly, for the angels, though mighty, are but servants and ministers, but the Scriptures were all written and sent, not by servants, but by God the Lord of all. He says, if "any man" preach another Gospel to you than that which we have preached,—not "if this or that man:" and herein appears his prudence, and care of giving offence, for what needed there still any mention of names, when he had used such extensive terms as to embrace all, both in heaven and earth? In that he anathemized evangelists and angels, he included every dignity, and his mention of himself included every intimacy and affinity. "Tell me not," he exclaims, "that my fellow-apostles and colleagues have so spoken; I spare not myself if I preach such doctrine." And he says this not as condemning the Apostles for swerving from the message they were commissioned to deliver; far from it, (for he says, whether we or they thus preach;) but to show, that in the discussion of truth the dignity of persons is not to be considered.
Ver. 10. "For am I now persuading men: or God?" or am I seeking to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ."
Granting, says he, that I might deceive you by these doctrines, could I deceive God, who knows my yet unuttered thoughts, and to please whom is my unceasing endeavor? See here the Apostolical spirit, the Evangelical loftiness! So too he writes to the Corinthians, "For we are not again commending ourselves unto you, but speak as giving you occasion of glorying;" (2 Cor. v: 12.) and again, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment." (1 Cor. iv: 3.) For since he is compelled to justify himself to his disciples, being their teacher, he submits to it; but he is grieved at it, not on account of chagrin, far from it, but on account of the instability of the minds of those led away and on account of not being fully trusted by them. Wherefore Paul now speaks, as it were, thus:—Is my account to be rendered to you? Shall I be judged by men? My account is to God, and all my acts are with a view to that inquisition, nor am I so miserably abandoned as to pervert my doctrine, seeing that I am to justify what I preach before the Lord of all.
He thus expressed himself, as much with a view of withstanding their opinions, as in self-defence; for it becomes disciples to obey, not to judge, their master. But now, says he, that the order is reversed, and ye sit as judges, know that I am but little concerned to defend myself before you; all, I do for God's sake, and in order that I may answer to Him concerning my doctrine. He who wishes to persuade men, is led to act tortuously and insincerely, and to employ deceit and falsehood, in order to engage the assent of his hearers. But he who addresses himself to God, and desires to please Him, needs simplicity and purity of mind, for God cannot be deceived. Whence it is plain that I have thus written to you not from the love of rule, or to gain disciples, or to receive honor at your hands. My endeavor has been to please God, not man. Were it otherwise, I should still consort with the Jews, still persecute the Church, I who have cast off my country altogether, my companions, my friends, my kindred, and all my reputation, and taken in exchange for these, persecution, enmity, strife, and daily-impending death, have given a signal proof that I speak not from love of human applause. This he says, being about to narrate his former life, and sudden conversion, and to demonstrate clearly that it was sincere. And that they might not be elevated by a notion that he did this by way of self-vindication to them, he premises, "For do I now persuade men?" He well knew how, on a fitting occasion, to correct his disciples, in a grave and lofty tone: assuredly he had other sources whence to demonstrate the truth of his preaching,—by signs and miracles, by dangers, by prisons, by daily deaths, by hunger and thirst, by nakedness, and the like. Now however that he is speaking not of false apostles, but of the true, who had shared these very perils, he employs another method. For when his discourse was pointed towards false apostles, he institutes a comparison by bringing forward his endurance of danger, saying, "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft." (2 Cor. xi: 23.) But now he speaks of his former manner of life and says,
Ver. 11, 12. "For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the Gospel which was preached by me that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ."
You observe how sedulously he affirms that he was taught of Christ, who Himself, without human intervention, condescended to reveal to him all knowledge. And if he were asked for his proof that God Himself thus immediately revealed to him these ineffable mysteries, he would instance his former manner of life, arguing that his conversion would not have been so sudden, had it not been by Divine revelation. For when men have been vehement and eager on the contrary side, their conviction, if it is effected by human means, requires much time and ingenuity. It is clear therefore that he, whose conversion is sudden, and who has been sobered in the very height of his madness, must have been vouchsafed a Divine revelation and teaching, and so have at once arrived at complete sanity. On this account he is obliged to relate his former life, and to call the Galatians as witnesses of past events. That the Only-Begotten Son of God had Himself from heaven vouchsafed to call me, says he, you who were not present, could not know, but that I was a persecutor you do know. For my violence even reached your ears, and the distance between Palestine and Galatia is so great, that the report would not have extended thither, had not my acts exceeded all bounds and endurance. Wherefore he says,
Ver. 13. "For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and made havoc of it."
Observe how he shrinks not from aggravating each point; not saying simply that he "persecuted" but "beyond measure," and not only "persecuted" but "made havoc of it," which signifies an attempt to extinguish, to pull down, to destroy, to annihilate, the Church.
Ver. 14. "And I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers."
To obviate the notion that his persecution arose from passion, vain-glory, or enmity, he shows that he was actuated by zeal, not indeed "according to knowledge," (Rom. x: 2.) still by a zealous admiration of the traditions of his fathers. This is his argument;—if my efforts against the Church sprung not from human motives, but from religious though mistaken zeal, why should I be actuated by vain-glory, now that I am contending for the Church, and have embraced the truth? If it was not this motive, but a godly zeal, which possessed me when I was in error, much more now that I have come to know the truth, ought I to be free from such a suspicion. As soon as I passed over to the doctrines of the Church I shook off my Jewish prejudices, manifesting on that side a zeal still more ardent; and this is a proof that my conversion is sincere, and that the zeal which possesses me is from above. What other inducement could I have to make such a change, and to barter honor for contempt, repose for peril, security for distress? none surely but the love of truth.
Ver. 15, 16. "But when it was the good pleasure of God, Who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood."
Here his object is to show, that it was by some secret providence that he was left for a time to himself. For if he was set apart from his mother's womb to be an Apostle and to be called to that ministry, yet was not actually called till that juncture, which summons he instantly obeyed, it is evident that God had some hidden reason for this delay. What this purpose was, you are perhaps eager to learn from me, and primarily, why he was not called with the twelve. But in order not to protract this discourse by digressing from that which is more pressing, I must entreat your love not to require all things from me, but to search for it by yourselves, and to beg of God to reveal it to you. Moreover I partly discussed this subject when I discoursed before you on the change of his name from Saul to Paul; which, if you have forgotten, you will fully gather from a perusal of that volume. At present let us pursue the thread of our discourse, and consider the proof he now adduces that no natural event had befallen him,—that God Himself had providentially ordered the occurrence. "And called me through His grace."
God indeed says that He called him on account of his excellent capacity, as He said to Ananias, "for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings," (Acts ix: 15.) that is to say, capable of service, and the accomplishment of great deeds. God gives this as the reason for his call. But he himself everywhere ascribes it to grace, and to God's inexpressible mercy, as in the words, "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy," not that I was sufficient or even serviceable, but "that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all His long-suffering, for an ensample of them which should hereafter believe on Him unto eternal life." (I Tim. i: 16.) Behold his overflowing humility; I obtained mercy, says he, that no one might despair, when the worst of men had shared His bounty. For this is the force of the words, "that He might show forth all His long-suffering for an ensample of them which should hereafter believe on Him."
"To reveal His Son in me."
Christ says in another place, "No one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; and who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him." (Luke x: 22.) You observe that the Father reveals the Son, and the Son the Father; so it is as to Their glory, the Son glorifies the Father, and the Father the Son; "glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee," and, "as I have glorified Thee." (John xvii: 1, 4.) But why does he say, "to reveal His Son in me," and not "to me?" it is to signify, that he had not only been instructed in the faith by words, but that he was richly endowed with the Spirit;—that the revelation had enlightened his whole soul, and that he had Christ speaking within him.
"That I might preach Him among the Gentiles." For not only his faith, but his election to the Apostolic office proceeded from God. The object, says he, of His thus specially revealing Himself to me, was not only that I might myself behold Him, but that I might also manifest Him to others. And he says not merely, "others," but, "that I might preach Him among the Gentiles," thus touching beforehand on that great ground of his defence which lay in the respective characters of the disciples; for it was necessary to preach differently to the Jews and to the heathen.
"Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood."
Here he alludes to the Apostles, naming them after their physical nature; however, that he may have meant to include all mankind, I shall not deny.
Ver. 17. "Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before me."
These words weighed by themselves seem to breath an arrogant spirit, and to be foreign to the Apostolic temper. For to give one's suffrage for one's self, and to admit no man to share one's counsel, is a sign of folly. It is said, "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him ;" (Prov: xxvi: 12.) and, "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isa. v: 21.) and Paul himself in another place, "Be not wise in your own conceits." (Rom. xii: 16.) Surely one who had been thus taught, and had thus admonished others, would not fall into such an error, even were he an ordinary man; much less then Paul himself. Nevertheless, as I said, this expression nakedly considered may easily prove a snare and offence to many hearers. But if the cause of it is subjoined, all will applaud and admire the speaker. This then let us do; for it is not the right course to weigh the mere words, nor examine the language by itself, as many errors will be the consequence, but to attend to the intention of the writer. And unless we pursue this method m our own discourses, and examine into the mind of the speaker, we shall make many enemies, and every thing will be thrown into disorder. Nor is this confined to words, but the same result will follow, if this rule is not observed in actions. For surgeons often cut and break certain of the bones; so do robbers; yet it would be miserable indeed not to be able to distinguish one from the other. Again, homicides and martyrs, when tortured, suffer the same pangs, yet is the difference between them great. Unless we attend to this rule, we shall not be able to discriminate in these matters; but shall call Elijah and Samuel and Phineas homicides, and Abraham a son-slayer; that is, if we go about to scrutinize the bare facts, without taking into account the intention of the agents. Let us then inquire into the intention of Paul in thus writing, let us consider his scope, and general deportment towards the Apostles, that we may arrive at his present meaning. Neither formerly, nor in this case, did he speak with a view of disparaging the Apostles or of extolling himself, (how so? when he included himself under his anathema?) but always in order to guard the integrity of the Gospel. Since the troublers of the Church said that they ought to obey the Apostles who suffered these observances, and not Paul who forbade them, and hence the Judaizing heresy had gradually crept in, it was necessary for him manfully to resist them, from a desire of repressing the arrogance of those who improperly exalted themselves, and not of speaking ill of the Apostles. And therefore he says, "I conferred not with flesh and blood;" for it would have been extremely absurd for one who had been taught by God, afterwards to refer himself to men. For it is right that he who learns from men should in turn take men as his counsellors. But he to whom that divine and blessed voice had been vouchsafed, and who had been fully instructed by Him that possesses all the treasures of wisdom, wherefore should he afterwards confer with men? It were meet that he should teach, not be taught by them. Therefore he thus spoke, not arrogantly, but to exhibit the dignity of his own commission. "Neither went I up," says he, "to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before me." Because they were continually repeating that the Apostles were before him, and were called before him, he says, "I went not up to them." Had it been needful for him to communicate with them, He, who revealed to him his commission, would have given him this injunction. Is it true, however, that he did not go up thither? nay, he went up, and not merely so, but in order to learn somewhat of them. When a question arose on our present subject in the city of Antioch, in the Church which had from the beginning shown so much zeal, and it was discussed whether the Gentile believers ought to be circumcised, or were under no necessity to undergo the rite, this very Paul himself and Silas went up. How is it then that he says, I went not up, nor conferred? First, because he went not up of his own accord, but was sent by others; next, because he came not to learn. but to bring others over. For he was from the first of that opinion, which the Apostles subsequently ratified,that circumcision was unnecessary. But when these persons deemed him unworthy of credit and applied to those at Jerusalem he went up not to be farther instructed, but to convince the gain-sayers that those at Jerusalem agreed with him. Thus he perceived from the first the fitting line of conduct, and needed no teacher, but, primarily and before any discussion, maintained without wavering what the Apostles, after much discussion, (Acts xv: 2,7.) subsequently ratified. This Luke shows by his own account, that Paul argued much at length with them on this subject before he went to Jerusalem. But since the brethren chose to be informed on this subject, by those at Jerusalem, he went up on their own account, not on his own. And his expression, "I went not up," signifies that he neither went at the outset of his teaching, nor for the purpose of being instructed. Both are implied by the phrase, "Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." He says not, "I conferred," merely, but, "immediately;" and his subsequent journey was not to gain any additional instruction. Ver. 17. "But I went away into Arabia."
Behold a fervent soul! he longed to occupy regions not yet tilled, but lying in a wild state. Had he remained with the Apostles, as he had nothing to learn, his preaching would have been straitened, for it behooved them to spread the word every where. Thus this blessed man, fervent in spirit, straightway undertook to teach wild barbarians, choosing a life full of battle and labor. Having said, "I went into Arabia," he adds, "and again I returned unto Damascus." Here observe his humility; he speaks not of his successes, nor of whom or of how many he instructed. Yet such was his zeal immediately on his baptism, that he confounded the Jews, and so exasperated them, that they and the Greeks lay in wait for him with a view to kill him. This would not have been the case, had he not greatly added to the numbers of the faithful; since they were vanquished in doctrine, they had recourse to murder, which was a manifest sign of Paul's superiority. But Christ suffered him not to be put to death, preserving him for his mission. Of these successes, however, he says nothing, and so in all his discourses, his motive is not ambition, nor to be honored more highly than the Apostles, nor because he is mortified at being lightly esteemed, but it is a fear lest any detriment should accrue to his mission. For he calls himself, "one born out of due time," and, "the first of sinners," and "the last of the Apostles," and, "not meet to be called an Apostle." And this he said, who had labored more than all of them; which is real humility; for he who, conscious of no excellence, speaks humbly of himself, is candid but not humble; but to say so after such trophies, is to be practised in self-control.
Ver. 17. "And again I returned unto Damascus."
But what great things did he not probably achieve in this city? for he tells us that the governor under Aretas the king set guards about the whole of it, hoping to entrap this blessed man. Which is a proof of the strongest kind that he was violently persecuted by the Jews. Here, however, he says nothing of this, but mentioning his arrival and departure is silent concerning the events which there occurred, nor would he have mentioned them in the place I have referred to, (2 Cor. xi: 32.) had not circumstances required their narration.
Ver. 18. "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas."
What can be more lowly than such a soul? After such successes, wanting nothing of Peter, not even his assent, but being of equal dignity with him, (for at present I will say no more,) he comes to him as his elder and superior. And the only object of this journey was to visit Peter; thus he pays due respect to the Apostles, and esteems himself not only not their better but not their equal. Which is plain from this journey, for Paul was induced to visit Peter by the same feeling from which many of our brethren sojourn with holy men: or rather by a humbler feeling for they do so for their own benefit, but this blessed man, not for his own instruction or correction, but merely for the sake of beholding and honoring Peter by his presence. He says, "to visit Peter;" he does not say to see, (idei^n,) but to visit and survey, (istorh^sai,) a word which those, who seek to become acquainted with great and splendid cities, apply to themselves. Worthy of such trouble did he consider the very sight of Peter; and this appears from the Acts of the Apostles also. (Acts xxi: 17, 18 etc.) For on his arrival at Jerusalem, on another occasion, after having converted many Gentiles, and, with labors far surpassing the rest, reformed and brought to Christ Pamphylia, Lycaonia, Cilicia, and all nations in that quarter of the world, he first addresses himself with great humility to James, as to his elder and superior. Next he submits to his counsel, and that counsel contrary to this Epistle. "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of them which have believed; therefore shave thy head, and purify thyself." (Acts xxi: 20 f.) Accordingly he shaved his head, and observed all the Jewish ceremonies; for where the Gospel was not affected, he was the humblest of all men. But where by such humility he saw any injured, he gave up that undue exercise of it, for that was no longer to be humble but to outrage and destroy the disciples.
Ver. 18. "And tarried with him fifteen days." To take a journey on account of him was a mark of respect; but to remain so many days, of friendship and the most earnest affection.
Ver. 19. "But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother."
See what great friends he was with Peter especially; on his account he left his home, and with him he tarried. This I frequently repeat, and desire you to remember, that no one, when he hears what this Apostle seems to have spoken against Peter, may conceive a suspicion of him. He premises this, that when he says, "I resisted Peter," no one may suppose that these words imply enmity and contention; for he honored and loved his person more than all and took this journey for his sake only, not for any of the others. "But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James." "I saw him merely, I did not learn from him," he means. But observe how honorably he mentions him, he says not "James" merely, but adds this illustrious title, so free is he from all envy. Had he only wished to point out whom he meant, he might have shown this by another appellation, and called him the son of Cleophas, as the Evangelist does. But as he considered that he had a share in the august titles of the Apostles, he exalts himself by honoring James; and this he does by calling him "the Lord's brother," although he was not by birth His brother, but only so reputed. Yet this did not deter him from giving the title; and in many other instances he displays towards all the Apostles that noble disposition, which beseemed him.
Ver. 20. "Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not."
Observe throughout the transparent humility of this holy soul; his earnestness in his own vindication is as great as if he had to render an account of his deeds, and was pleading for his life in a court of justice.
Ver. 21. "Then I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia."
After his interview with Peter, he resumes his preaching and the task which lay before him, avoiding Judaea, both because of his mission being to the Gentiles, and of his unwillingness to "build upon another man's foundation." Wherefore there was not even a chance meeting, as appears from what follows.
Ver. 22, 23. "And I was still unknown by face unto the Churches of Judaea; but they only heard say, he that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc."
What modesty in thus again mentioning the facts of his persecuting and laying waste the Church, and in thus making infamous his former life, while he passes over the illustrious deeds he was about to achieve! He might have told, had he wished it, all his successes, but he mentions none of these and stepping with one word over a vast expanse, he says merely, "I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;" and, "they had heard, that he, which once persecuted us, now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc." The purpose of the words, "I was unknown to the Churches of Judaea," is to show, that so far from preaching to them the necessity of circumcision, he was not known to them even by sight.
Ver. 24. "And they glorified God in me." See here again how accurately he observes the rule of his humility; he says not, they admired me, they applauded or were astonished at me, but ascribes all to Divine grace by the words, "they glorified God in me."
"Then after the space of fourteen year's, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. And I went up by revelation."
His first journey was owing to his desire to visit Peter, his second, he says, arose from a revelation of the Spirit.
Ver. 2. "And I laid before them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before them who were of repute, lest by any means I should be running or had run in vain."
What is this, O Paul! thou who neither at the beginning nor after three years wouldest confer with the Apostles, dost thou now confer with them, after fourteen years are past, lest thou shouldest be running in vain? Better would it have been to have done so at first, than after so many years; and why didst thou run at all, if not satisfied that thou wert not running in vain? Who would be so senseless as to preach for so many years, without being sure that his preaching was true? And what enhances the difficulty is, that he says he went up by revelation; this difficulty, however, will afford a solution of the former one. Had he gone up of his own accord, it would have been most unreasonable, nor is it possible that this blessed soul should have fallen into such folly; for it is himself who says, "I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air." (1 Cor. ix: 26.) If therefore he runs, "not uncertainly," how can he say, "lest I should be running, or had run, in vain?" It is evident from this, that if he had gone up without a revelation, he would have committed an act of folly. But the actual case involved no such absurdity; who shall dare to still harbor this suspicion, when it was the grace of the Spirit which drew him? On this account he added the words "by revelation," lest, before the question was solved, he should be condemned of folly; well knowing that it was no human occurrence, but a deep Divine Providence concerning the present and future. What then is the reason of this journey of his? As when he went up before from Antioch to Jerusalem, it was not for his own sake, (for he saw clearly that his duty was simply to obey the doctrines of Christ,) but from a desire to reconcile the contentious; so now his object was the complete satisfaction of his accusers, not any wish of his own to learn that he had not run in vain. They conceived that Peter and John, of whom they thought more highly than of Paul, differed from him in that he ommitted circumcision in his preaching, while the former allowed it, and they believed that in this he acted unlawfully, and was running in vain. I went up, says he, and communicated unto them my Gospel, not that I might learn aught myself, (as appears more clearly further on,) but that I might convince these suspicious persons that I do not run in vain. The Spirit forseeing this contention had provided that he should go up and make this communication.
Wherefore he says that he went up by revelation, and, taking Barnabas and Titus as witnesses of his preaching, communicated to them the Gospel which he preached to the Gentiles, that is, with the omission of circumcision. "But privately before them who were of repute." What means "privately?" Rather, he who wishes to reform doctrines held in common, proposes them, not privately, but before all in common; but Paul did this privately, for his object was, not to learn or reform any thing, but to cut off the grounds of those who would fain deceive. All at Jerusalem were offended, if the law was transgressed, or the use of circumcision forbidden; as James says, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of them which have believed; and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest to forsake the law." (Acts xxi: 20, et seq.) Since then they were offended he did not condescend to come forward publicly and declare what his preaching was, but he conferred privately with those who were of reputation before Barnabas and Titus, that they might credibly testify to his accusers, that the Apostles found no discrepancy in his preaching, but confirmed it. The expression, "those that were of repute," (toi^s dokou^sin) does not impugn the reality of their greatness; for he says of himself, "And I also seem (dokw^) to have the Spirit of God," thereby not denying the fact, but stating it modestly. And here the phrase implies his own assent to the common opinion.
Ver. 3. "But not even Titus, who was with, me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised."
What means, "being a Greek?" Of Greek extraction, and not circumcised; for not only did I so preach but Titus so acted, nor did the Apostles compel him to be circumcised. A plain proof this that the Apostles did not condemn Paul's doctrine or his practice. Nay more, even the urgent representations of the adverse party, who were aware of these facts, did not oblige the Apostles to enjoin circumcision, as appears by his own words,—
Ver. 4. "And that because of the false brethren, privily brought in."
Here arises a very important question, Who were these false brethren? If the Apostles permitted circumcision at Jerusalem, why are those who enjoined it, in accordance with the Apostolic sentence, to be called false brethren? First; because there is a difference between commanding an act to be done, and allowing it after it is done. He who enjoins an act, does it with zeal as necessary, and of primary importance; but he who, without himself commanding it, alloweth another to do it who wishes yields not from a sense of its being necessary but in order to subserve some purpose. We have a similar instance, in Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, in his command to husbands and wives to come together again. To which, that he might not be thought to be legislating for them, he subjoins, "But this I say by way of permission, not of commandment." (1 Cor. vii: 5.) For this was not a judgment authoritatively given but an indulgence to their incontinence; as he says, "for your incontinency." Would you know Paul's sentence in this matter? hear his words, "I would that all men were even as I myself,"(1 Cor. vii 7.) in continence. And so here, the Apostles made this concession, not as vindicating the law, but as condescending to the infirmities of Judaism. Had they been vindicating the law, they would not have preached to the Jews in one way, and to the Gentiles in another. Had the observance been necessary for unbelievers, then indeed it would plainly have likewise been necessary for all the faithful. But by their decision not to harass the Gentiles on this point, they showed that they permitted it by way of condescension to the Jews. Whereas the purpose of the false brethren was to cast them out of grace, and reduce them under the yoke of slavery again. This is the first difference, and a very wide one. The second is, that the Apostles so acted in Judaea, where the Law was in force, but the false brethren, every where, for all the Galatians were influenced by them. Whence it appears that their intention was, not to build up, but entirely to pull down the Gospel, and that the thing was permitted by the Apostles on one ground and zealously practiced by the false brethren on another.
Ver. 4. "Who came in privily to spy out our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage."
He points out their hostility by calling them spies; for the sole object of a spy is to obtain for himself facilities of devastation and destruction, by becoming acquainted with his adversary's position. And this is what those did, who wished to bring the disciples back to their old servitude. Hence too appears how very contrary their purpose was to that of the Apostles; the latter made concessions that they might gradually extricate them from their servitude, but the former plotted to subject them to one more severe. Therefore they looked round and observed accurately and made themselves busybodies to find out who were uncircumcised; as Paul says, "they came in privily to spy out our liberty," thus pointing out their machinations not only by the term "spies," but by this expression of a furtive entrance and creeping in.
Ver. 5. "To whom we gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour."
Observe the force and emphasis of the phrase; he says not, "by argument," but, "by subjection," for their object was not to teach good doctrine, but to subjugate and enslave them.
Wherefore, says he, we yielded to the Apostles, but not to these.
Ver. 5. "That the truth of the Gospel might continue with you."
That we may confirm, says he, by our deeds what we have already declared by words,—namely, that the "old things are passed away, behold they are become new;" and that "if any man is in Christ he is a new creature ;" (2 Cor. v: 17.) and that "if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing." (Gal. v: 2.) In maintaining this truth we gave place not even for an hour. Then, as he was directly met by the conduct of the Apostles, and the reason of their enjoining the rite would probably be asked, he proceeds to solve this objection. This he does with great skill, for he does not give the actual reason, which was, that the Apostles acted by way of condescension and in the use of a scheme, (oikonomi'a) as it were; for otherwise his hearers would have been injured. For those, who are to derive benefit from a scheme should be unacquainted with the design of it; all will be undone, if this appears. Wherefore, he who is to take part in it should know the drift of it; those who are to benefit by it should not. To make my meaning more evident, I will take an example from our present subject. The blessed Paul himself, who meant to abrogate circumcision, when he was about to send Timothy to teach the Jews, first circumcised him and so sent him. This he did, that his hearers might the more readily receive him; he began by circumcising, that in the end he might abolish it. But this reason he imparted to Timothy only, and told it not to the disciples. Had they known that the very purpose of his circumcision was the abolition of the rite, they would never have listened to his preaching, and the whole benefit would have been lost. But now their ignorance was of the greatest use to them, for their idea that his conduct proceeded from a regard to the Law, led them to receive both him and his doctrine with kindness and courtesy, and having gradually received him, and become instructed, they abandoned their old customs. Now this would not have happened had they known his reasons from the first; for they would have turned away from him, and being turned away would not have given him a hearing, and not hearing, would have continued in their former error. To prevent this, he did not disclose his reasons; here too he does not explain the occasion of the scheme, (oikonomi'a) but shapes his discourse differently; thus:
Ver. 6. "But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me, God accepteth no man's person.)"
Here he not only does not defend the Apostles, but even presses hard upon those holy men, for the benefit of the weak. His meaning is this: although they permit circumcision, they shall render an account to God, for God will not accept their persons, because they are great and in station. But he does not speak so plainly, but with caution. He says not, if they vitiate their doctrine, and swerve from the appointed rule of their preaching, they shall be judged with the utmost rigor, and suffer punishment; but he alludes to them more reverently, in the words, "of those who were reputed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were." He says not, "whatsoever they 'are,'" but "were," showing that they too had thenceforth ceased so to preach, the doctrine having extended itself universally. The phrase, "whatsoever they were," implies, that if they so preached they should render account, for they had to justify themselves before God, not before men. This he said, not as doubtful or ignorant of the rectitude of their procedure, but (as I said before) from a sense of the expediency of so forming his discourse. Then, that he may not seem to take the opposite side and to accuse them, and so create a suspicion of their disagreement, he straightway subjoins this correction: "for those who were reputed to be somewhat, in conference imparted nothing to me." This is his meaning; What you may say, I know not; this I know well, that the Apostles did not oppose me, but our sentiments conspired and accorded. This appears from his expression, "they gave me the right hand of fellowship;" but he does not say this at present, but only that they neither informed or corrected him on any point, nor added to his knowledge.
Ver. 6. "For those who were reputed to be somewhat, imparted nothing to me:"
That is to say, when told of my proceedings, they added nothing, they corrected nothing, and though aware that the object of my journey was to communicate with them, that I had come by revelation of the Spirit, and that I had Titus with me who was uncircumcised, they neither circumcised him, nor imparted to me any additional knowledge.
Ver. 7. "But contrariwise."
Some hold his meaning to be, not only that the Apostles did not instruct him, but that they were instructed by him. But I would not say this, for what could they, each of whom was himself perfectly instructed, have learnt from him? He does not therefore intend this by the expression, "contrariwise," but that so far were they from blaming, that they praised him: for praise is the contrary of blame. Some would probably here reply: Why did not the Apostles, if they praised your procedure, as the proper consequence abolish circumcision? Now to assert that they did abolish it Paul considered much too bold, and inconsistent with his own admission. On the other hand, to admit that they had sanctioned circumcision, would necessarily expose him to another objection. For it would be said, if the Apostles praised your preaching, yet sanctioned circumcision, they were inconsistent with themselves. What then is the solution? is he to say that they acted thus out of condescension to Judaism? To say this would have shaken the very foundation of the economy. Wherefore he leaves the subject in suspense and uncertainty, by the words, "but of those who were reputed to be somewhat; it maketh no matter to me." Which is in effect to say, I accuse not, nor traduce those holy men; they know what it is they have done; to God must they render their account. What I am desirous to prove is, that they neither reversed nor corrected my procedure, nor added to it as in their opinion defective, but gave it their approbation and assent; and to this Titus and Barnabas bear witness. Then he adds,
Ver. 7. "When they saw that I had been entrusted with the Gospel of the Uncircumcision even as Peter with the Gospel of the Circumcision,"—
The Circumcision and Uncircumcision; meaning, not the things themselves, but the nations known by these distinctions; wherefore he adds,
Ver. 8. "For He that wrought for Peter unto the Apostleship of the Circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles."
He calls the Gentiles the Uncircumcision and the Jews the Circumcision, and declares his own rank to be equal to that of the Apostles; and, by comparing himself with their Leader not with the others, he shows that the dignity of each was the same. After he had established the proof of their unanimity, he takes courage, and proceeds confidently in his argument, not stopping at the Apostles, but advances to Christ Himself, and to the grace which He had conferred upon him, and calls-the Apostles as his witnesses, saying,
Ver. 9. "And when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship."
He says not when they "heard," but when they "perceived," that is, were assured by the facts themselves, "they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship." Observe how he gradually proves that his doctrine was ratified both by Christ and by the Apostles. For grace would neither have been implanted, nor been operative in him, had not his preaching been approved by Christ. Where it was for the purpose of comparison with himself, he mentioned Peter alone; here, when be calls them as witnesses, he names the three together, "Cephas, James, John," and with an encomium, "who were reputed to be pillars." Here again the expression "who were reputed" does not impugn the reality of the fact, but adopts the estimate of others, and implies that these great and distinguished men, whose fame was universal, bare witness that his preaching was ratified by Christ, that they were practically informed and convinced by experience concerning it. "Therefore they gave the right hands of fellowship" to me, and not to me only, but also to Barnabas, "that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the Circumcision." Here indeed is exceeding prudence as well as an incontrovertible proof of their concord. For it shows that his and their doctrine was interchangeable, and that both approved the same thing, that they should so preach to the Jews, and he to the Gentiles. Wherefore he adds,
Ver. 9. "That we should go unto the Gentiles and they unto the Circumcision."
Observe that here also he means by "the Circumcision," not the rite, but the Jews; whenever he speaks of the rite, and wishes to contrast it, he adds the word "uncircumcision;" as when he says, "For circumcision indeed profiteth, if thou be a doer of the law; but if thou be a transgressor of the law, thy circumcision is become uncircumcision." (Ro. ii: 25.) And again, "Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision." But when it is to the Jews and not to the deed that he gives this name, and wishes to signify the nation, he opposes to it not uncircumcision in its literal sense, but the Gentiles. For the Jews are the contradistinction to the Gentiles, the Circumcision to the Uncircumcision. Thus when he says above, "For He that wrought for Peter into the Apostleship of the Circumcision, wrought for me also unto the Gentiles;" and again, "We unto the Gentiles and they unto the Circumcision," he means not the rite itself, but the Jewish nation, thus distinguishing them from the Gentiles.
Ver. 10. "Only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do."
This is his meaning: In our preaching we divided the world between us, I took the Gentiles and they the Jews, according to the Divine decree; but to the sustenance of the poor among the Jews I also contributed my share, which, had there been any dissension between us, they would not have accepted. Next, who were these poor persons? Many of the believing Jews in Palestine had been deprived of all their goods, and scattered over the world, as he mentions in the Epistle to the Hebrews," "For ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions ;" and in writing to the Thessalonians, (1 Thes. ii: 14.) he extols their fortitude, "Ye became imitators of the Churches of God which are in Judaea, . . . for ye also suffered the same thing of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews." And he shows throughout that those Greeks who believed were not under persecution from the rest, such as the believing Jews were suffering from their own kindred, for there is no nation of a temper so cruel. Wherefore he exercises much zeal, as appears in the Epistles to the Romans (Ro. xv: 25—27.) and Corinthians (1 Cor. xvi: 1—3.) that these persons should meet with much attention; and Paul not only collects money for them, but himself conveys it, as he says, "But now I go unto Jerusalem ministering unto the saints," (Ro. xv: 25.) for they were without the necessaries of life. And he here shows that in this instance having resolved to assist them, he had undertaken and would not abandon it.
Having by these means declared the unanimity and harmony between the Apostles and himself, he is obliged to proceed to mention his debate with Peter at Antioch.
Ver. 11, 12. "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision."
Many, on a superficial reading of this part of the Epistle, suppose that Paul accused Peter of hypocrisy. But this is not so, indeed it is not, far from it; we shall discover great wisdom, both of Paul and Peter, concealed herein for the benefit of their hearers. But first a word must be said about Peter's freedom in speech, and how it was ever his way to outstrip the other disciples. Indeed it was upon one such occasion that he gained his name from the unbending and impregnable character of his faith. For when all were interrogated in common, he stepped before the others and answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mat. xvi: 16.) This was when the keys of heaven were committed to him. So too, he appears to have been the only speaker on the Mount; (Mat. xvii: 4.) and when Christ spoke of His crucifixion, and the others kept silence, he said, "Be it far from Thee." (Mat. xvi: 22.) These words evince, if not a cautious temper, at least a fervent love; and in all instances we find him more vehement than the others, and rushing forward into danger. So when Christ was seen on the beach, and the others were pushing the boat in, he was too impatient to wait for its coming to land. (John xxi: 7.) And after the Resurrection, when the Jews were murderous and maddened, and sought to tear the Apostles in pieces, he first dared to come forward, and to declare, that the Crucified was taken up into heaven. (Acts ii.: 14, 36.) It is a greater thing to open a closed door, and to commence an action, than to be free-spoken afterwards. How could he ever dissemble who had exposed his life to such a populace? He who when scourged and bound would not bate a jot of his courage, and this at the beginning of his mission, and in the heart of the chief city where there was so much danger,—how could he, long afterwards in Antioch, where no danger was at hand, and his character had received lustre from the testimony of his actions, feel any apprehension of the believing Jews? How could he, I say, who at the very first and in their chief city feared not the Jews while Jews, after a long time and in a foreign city, fear those of them who had been converted? Paul therefore does not speak this against Peter, but with the same meaning in which he said, "for they who were reputed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me." But to remove any doubt on this point, we must unfold the reason of these expressions.
The Apostles, as I said before, permitted circumcision at Jerusalem, an abrupt severance from the law not being practicable; but when they come to Antioch, they no longer continued this observance, but lived indiscriminately with the believing Gentiles which thing Peter also was at that time doing. But when some came from Jerusalem who had heard the doctrine he delivered there, he no longer did so fearing to perplex them, but he changed his course, with two objects secretly in view, both to avoid offending those Jews, and to give Paul a reasonable pretext for rebuking him. For had he, having allowed circumcision when preaching at Jerusalem, changed his course at Antioch, his conduct would have appeared to those Jews to proceed from fear of Paul, and his disciples would have condemned his excess of pliancy. And this would have created no small offence; but in Paul, who was well acquainted with all the facts, his withdrawal would have raised no such suspicion, as knowing the intention with which he acted. Wherefore Paul rebukes, and Peter submits, that when the master is blamed, yet keeps silence, the disciples may more readily come over. Without this occurrence Paul's exhortation would have had little effect, but the occasion hereby afforded of delivering a severe reproof, impressed Peter's disciples with a more lively fear. Had Peter disputed Paul's sentence, he might justly have been blamed as upsetting the plan, but now that the one reproves and the other keeps silence, the Jewish party are filled with serious alarm; and this is why he used Peter so severely. Observe too Paul's careful choice of expressions, whereby he points out to the discerning, that he uses them in pursuance of the plan, (oikonomi'as) and not from anger.
His words are, "When Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned; "that is, not by me but by others; had he himself condemned him, he would not have shrunk from saying so. And the words, "I resisted him to the face," imply a scheme for had their discussion been real, they would not have rebuked each other in the presence of the disciples, for it would have been a great stumblingblock to them. But now this apparent contest was much to their advantage; as Paul had yielded to the Apostles at Jerusalem, so in turn they yield to him at Antioch. The cause of censure is this, "For before that certain came from James," who was the teacher at Jerusalem, "he did eat with the Gentiles, but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the Circumcision:" his cause of fear was not his own danger, (for if he feared not in the beginning, much less would he do so then,) but their defection. As Paul himself says to the Galatians, "I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain:" (Gal. iv: xx.) and again, "I fear lest by any means as the serpent beguiled Eve, ... so your minds should be corrupted." (2 Cor. xi: 3.) Thus the fear of death they knew not, but the fear lest their disciples should perish, agitated their inmost soul.
Ver. 13. "Insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation."
Be not surprised at his giving this proceeding the name of dissimulation, for he is unwilling, as I said before, to disclose the true state of the case, in order to the correction of his disciples. On account of their vehement attachment to the Law, he calls the present proceeding "dissimulation," and severely rebukes it, in order effectually to eradicate their prejudice. And Peter too, hearing this joins in the feint, as if he had erred, that they might be corrected by means of the rebuke administered to him. Had Paul reproved these Jews, they would have spurned at it with indignation, for they held him in slight esteem; but now, when they saw their Teacher silent under rebuke, they were unable to despise or resist Paul's sentence.
Ver. 14. "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel." Neither let this phrase disturb you, for in using it he does not condemn Peter, but so expresses himself for the benefit of those who were to be reformed by the reproof of Peter.
Ver. 14. "I said unto Cephas before them all." Observe his mode of correcting the others; he speaks "before them all," that the hearers might be alarmed thereby. And this is what he says,—
Ver. 14. "If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"
But it was the Jews and not the Gentiles who were carried away together with Peter; why then does Paul impute what was not done, instead of directing his remarks, not against the Gentiles, but against the dissembling Jews? And why does he accuse Peter alone, when the rest also dissembled together with him? Let us consider the terms of his charge; "If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" for in fact Peter alone had withdrawn himself. His object then is to remove suspicion from his rebuke; had he blamed Peter for observing the Law, the Jews would have censured him for his boldness towards their Teacher. But now arraigning him in behalf of his own peculiar disciples, I mean the Gentiles, he facilitates thereby the reception of what he has to say I which he also does by abstaining from reproof of the others, and addressing it all to the Apostle. "If thou," he says, "being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews ;" which almost amounts to an explicit exhortation to imitate their Teacher, who, himself a Jew, lived after the manner of the Gentiles. This however he says not, for they could not have received such advice, but under color of reproving him in behalf of the Gentiles, he discloses Peter's real sentiments. On the other hand, if he had said, Wherefore do you compel these Jews to Judaize? his language would have been too severe. But now he effects their correction by appearing to espouse the part, not of the Jewish, but of the Gentile, disciples; for rebukes, which are moderately severe, secure the readiest reception. And none of the Gentiles could object to Paul that he took up the defense of the Jews. The whole difficulty was removed by Peter's submitting in silence to the imputation of dissimulation, in order that he might deliver the Jews from its reality. At first Paul directs his argument to the character which Peter wore, "If thou, being a Jew:" but he generalizes as he goes on, and includes himself in the phrase,
Ver. 15. "We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles."
These words are hortatory, but are couched in the form of a reproof, on account of those Jews. So elsewhere, trader cover of one meaning he conveys another; as where he says in his Epistle to the Romans, "But now I go unto Jerusalem, ministering unto the saints." (Rom. xv: 25.) Here his object was not simply to inform them of the motive of his journey to Jerusalem, but to excite them to emulation in the giving of alms. Had he merely wished to explain his motive, it would have sufficed to say, "I go to ministering unto the saints;" but now observe what he says in addition; "For it hath been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem. Yea, it hath been their good pleasure and their debtors they are." And again, "For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them, also to minister unto them in carnal things." (Rom. xv: 26, 27.)
Observe how he represses the high thoughts of the Jews; preparing for one thing by means of another, and his language is authoritative. "We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles." The phrase, "Jews by nature," implies that we, who are not proselytes, but educated from early youth in the Law, have relinquished our habitual mode of life, and be taken ourselves to the faith which is in Christ.
Ver. 16. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, save through faith, in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus."
Observe here too how cautiously he expresses himself; he does not say that they had abandoned the Law as evil, but as weak. If the law cannot confer righteousness, it follows that circumcision is superfluous; and so far he now proves; but he proceeds to show that it is not only superfluous but dangerous. It deserves especial notice, how at the outset he says that a man is not justified by the works of the Law; but as he proceeds he speaks more strongly;
Ver. 17. "But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners is Christ a minister of sin?"
If faith in Him, says he, avail not for our justification, but it be necessary again to embrace the Law, and if, having forsaken the Law for Christ's sake, we are not justified but condemned for such abandonment,—then shall we find Him, for whose sake we forsook the Law and went over to faith the author of our condemnation. Observe how, he has resolved the matter to a necessary absurdity. And mark how earnestly and strongly he argues. For if, he says, it behooved us not to abandon the Law, and we have so abandoned it for Christ's sake, we shall be judged. Wherefore do you urge this upon Peter, who is more intimately acquainted with it than any one? Hath not God declared to him, that an uncircumcised man ought not to be judged by circumcision; and did he not in his discussion with the Jews rest his bold opposition upon the vision which he saw? Did he not send from Jerusalem unequivocal decrees upon this subject? Paul's object is not therefore to correct Peter, but his animadversion required to be addressed to him, though it was pointed at the disciples; and not only at the Galatians, but also at others who labor under the same error with them. For though few are now circumcised, yet, by fasting and observing the sabbath with the Jews, they equally exclude themselves from grace. If Christ avails not to those who are only circumcised, much more is peril to be feared where fasting and sabbatizing are observed, and thus two commandments of the Law are kept in the place of one. And this is aggravated by a consideration of time: for they so acted at first while the city and temple and other institutions yet existed; but these who with the punishment of the Jews, and the destruction of the city before their eyes, observe more precepts of the Law than the others did, what apology can they find for such observance, at the very time when the Jews themselves, in spite of their strong desire, cannot keep it? Thou hast put on Christ, thou hast become a member of the Lord, and been enrolled in the heavenly city, and dost thou still grovel in the Law? How is it possible for thee to obtain the kingdom? Listen to Paul's words, that the observance of the Law overthrows the Gospel, and learn, if thou wilt, how this comes to pass, and tremble, and shun this pitfall. Wherefore dost thou keep the sabbath, and fast with the Jews? Is it that thou fearest the Law and abandonment of its letter? But thou wouldest not entertain this fear, didst thou not disparage faith as weak, and by itself powerless to save. A fear to omit the sabbath plainly shows that you fear the Law as still in force; and if the Law is needful, it is so as a whole, not in part, nor in one commandment only; and if as a whole, the righteousness which is by faith is little by little shut out. If thou keep the sabbath, why not also be circumcised? and if circumcised, why not also offer sacrifices? If the Law is to be observed, it must be observed as a whole, or not at all. If omitting one part makes you fear condemnation, this fear attaches equally to all the parts. If a transgression of the whole is not punishable, much less is the transgression of a part; on the other hand, if the latter be punishable, much more is the former. But if we are bound to keep the whole, we are bound to disobey Christ, or by obedience to Him become transgressors of the Law. If it ought to be kept, those who keep it not are transgressors, and Christ will be found to be the cause of this transgression, for He annulled the Law as regards these things Himself, and bid others annul it. Do you not understand what these Judaizers are compassing? They would make Christ, who is to us the Author of righteousness, the Author of sin, as Paul says, "Therefore Christ is the minister of sin." Having thus reduced the proposition to an absurdity, he had nothing further to do by way of overthrowing it, but was satisfied with the simple protestation,
Ver. 17. "God forbid:" for shamelessness and irreverence need not be met by processes of reasoning, but a mere protest is enough.
Ver. 18. "For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor."
Observe the Apostle's discernment; his opponents endeavored to show, that he who kept not the Law was a transgressor, but he retorts the argument upon them, and shows that he who did keep the Law was a transgressor, not merely of faith, but of the Law itself. "I build up again the things which I destroyed," that is, the Law; he means as follows: the Law has confessedly ceased, and we have abandoned it, and betaken ourselves to the salvation which comes of faith. But if we make a point of setting it up again, we become by that very act transgressors, striving to keep what what God has annulled. Next he shows how it has been annulled.
Ver. 19. "For I through the Law died unto the Law."
This may be viewed in two ways; it is either the law of grace which he speaks of, for he is wont to call this a law, as in the words, "For the law of the Spirit of life made me free:" (Rom. viii: 2.) or it is the old Law, of which he says, that by the Law itself he has become dead to the Law. That is to say, the Law itself has taught me no longer to obey itself, and therefore if I do so, I shall be transgressing even its teaching. How, in what way has it so taught? Moses says, speaking of Christ, "The Lord God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him shall ye hearken." (Dent. xviii: 15.) Therefore they who do not obey Him, transgress the Law. Again, the expression, "I through the Law died unto the Law," may be understood in another sense: the Law commands all its precepts to be performed, and punishes the transgressor; therefore we are all dead to it, for no man has fulfilled it. Here observe, how guardedly he assails it; he says not, "the Law is dead to me;" but, "I am dead to the Law;" the meaning of which is, that, as it is impossible for a dead corpse to obey the commands of the Law, so also is it for me who have perished by its curse, for by its word am I slain. Let it not therefore lay commands on the dead, dead by its own act, dead not in body only, but in soul, which has involved the death of the body. This he shows in what follows:
Ver. 19, 20. "That I might live unto God, I have been crucified with Christ."
Having said, "I am dead," lest it should be objected, how then dost thou live? he adds the cause of his living, and shows that when alive the Law slew him, but that when dead Christ through death restored him to life. He shows the wonder to be twofold; that by Christ both the dead was begotten into life, and that by means of death. He here means the immortal life, for this is the meaning of the words, "That I might live unto God I am crucified with Christ." How, it is asked, can a man now living and breathing have been crucified? That Christ hath been crucified is manifest, but how canst thou have been crucified, and yet live? He explains it thus;
Ver. 20. "Yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me."
In these words, "I am crucified with Christ," he alludes to Baptism and in the words "nevertheless I live, yet not I," our subsequent manner of life whereby our members are mortified. By saying "Christ liveth in me," he means nothing is done by me, which Christ disapproves; for as by death he signifies not what is commonly understood, but a death to sin; so by life, he signifies a delivery from sin. For a man cannot live to God, otherwise than by dying to sin; and as Christ suffered bodily death, so does Paul a death to sin. "Mortify," says he "your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, passion;" (Col. iii: 5.) , and again, "our old man was crucified, "(Rom. vi: 6.) which took place in the Bath. After which, if thou remainest dead to sin, thou livest to God, but if thou let it live again, thou art the ruin of thy new life. This however did not Paul, but continued wholly dead; if then, he says, I live to God a life other than that in the Law, and am dead to the Law, I cannot possibly keep any part of the Law. Consider how perfect was his walk, and thou wilt be transported with admiration of this blessed soul. He says not, "I live," but, "Christ liveth in me;" who is bold enough to utter such words? Paul indeed, who had harnessed himself to Christ's yoke, and cast away all worldly things, and was paying universal obedience to His will, says not, "I live to Christ," but what is far higher, "Christ liveth in me." As sin, when it has the mastery, is itself the vital principle, and leads the soul whither it will, so, when it is slain and the will of Christ obeyed, this life is no longer earthly, but Christ liveth, that is, works, has mastery within us. His saying, "I am crucified with Him""I no longer live," but "am dead," seeming incredible to many, he adds,
Ver. 20. "And that life which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God."
The foregoing, says he, relates to our spiritual life, but this life of sense too, if considered, will be found owing to my faith in Christ. For as regards the former Dispensation and Law, I had incurred the severest punishment, and had long ago perished, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. iii: 23.) And we, who lay under sentence, have been liberated by Christ, for all of us are dead, if not in fact, at least by sentence; and He has delivered us from the expected blow. When the Law had accused, and God condemned us, Christ came, and by giving Himself up to death, rescued us all from death. So that "the life which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith." Had not this been, nothing could have averted a destruction as general as that which took place at the flood, but His advent arrested the wrath of God, and caused us to live by faith. That such is his meaning appears from what follows. After saying, that "the life which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith," he adds,
Ver. 20. "In the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself up for me."
How is this, O Paul! why dost thou appropriate a general benefit, and make thine own what was done for the whole world's sake? for he says not, "Who loved us," but, "Who loved me." And besides the Evangelist says, "God so loved the world;" (John iii: 16.) and Paul himself, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up, not for Paul only, but, "for us all ;" (Rom. viii: 32.) and again, "that He might purify unto himself a people for his own possession, (Tit. ii: 14.) But considering the desperate condition of human nature, and the ineffably tender solicitude of Christ, in what He delivered us from, and what He freely gave us, and kindled by the yearning of affection towards Him, he thus expresses himself. Thus the Prophets often appropriate to themselves Him who is God of all, as in the words, "O God, thou art my God, early will I seek Thee." (Psalm lxiii: I.) Moreover, this language teaches that each individual justly owes as a great debt of gratitude to Christ, as if He had come for his sake alone, for He would not have grudged this His condescension though but for one, so that the measure of His love to each is as great as to the whole world. Truly the Sacrifice was offered for all mankind, and was sufficient to save all, but those who enjoy the blessing are the believing only. Nevertheless it did not deter Him from His so great condescension, that not all would come; but He acted after the pattern of the supper in the Gospel, which He prepared for all, (Luke xiv: 16.) yet when the guests came not, instead of withdrawing the viands, He called in others. So too He did not despise that sheep, though one only, which had strayed from the ninety and nine. (Mat. xviii: 12.) This too in like manner St. Paul intimates, when he says, speaking about the Jews, "For what if some were without faith, shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God? God forbid: yea let God be found true, but every man a liar." (Rom. iii: 3, 4.) When He so loved thee as to give Himself up to bring thee who wast without hope to a life so great and blessed, canst thou, thus gifted, have recourse to things gone by? His reasoning being completed, he concludes with a vehement asseveration, saying,
Ver. 21. "I do not make void the grace of God."
Let those, who even now Judaize and adhere to the Law, listen to this, for it applies to them.
Ver. 21. "For if righteousness is through the Law, then Christ died for naught."
What can be more heinous than this sin? what more fit to put one to shame than these words? Christ's death is a plain proof of the inability of the Law to justify us; and if it does justify, then is His death superfluous. Yet how could it be reasonable to say that has been done heedlessly and in vain which is so awful, so surpassing human reason, a mystery so ineffable, with which Patriarchs travailed, which Prophets foretold, which Angels gazed on with consternation, which all men confess as the summit of the Divine tenderness? Reflecting how utterly out of place it would be if they should say that so great and high a deed had been done superfluously, (for this is what their conduct came to,) he even uses violent language against them, as we find in the words which follow.
"O foolish Galatians who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth, crucified?"
Here he passes to another subject; in the former chapters he had shown himself not to be an Apostle of men, nor by men, nor in want of Apostolic instruction. Now, having established his authority as a teacher, he proceeds to discourse more confidently, and draws a comparison between faith and the Law. At the outset he said, "I marvel that ye are so quickly removing;" (Gal. i: 6.) but here, "O foolish Galatians;" then, his indignation was in its birth, but now, after his refutation of the charges against himself, and his proofs, it bursts forth. Let not his calling them "foolish" surprise you; for it is not a transgression of Christ's command not to call one's brother a fool, but rather a strict observance of it. For it is not said simply, "Whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool," (Mat. v: 22.) but, whosoever shall do so, "without a cause." And who more fittingly than they could so be called, who after so great events, adhered to past things, as if nothing else had ever happened? If on this account Paul is to be called a "reviler," Peter may likewise, on account of Annanias and Sapphira, be called a homicide; but as it would be wildness to do so in that case, much more in this. Moreover it is to be considered, that this vehemence is not used at the beginning, but after these evidences and proofs, which, rather than Paul himself, might now be held to administer the rebuke. For after he had shown that they rejected the faith, and made the death of Christ to be without a purpose, he introduces his reproof, which, even as it is, is less severe than they merited. Observe too how soon he stays his arm; for he adds not, Who has seduced you? who has perverted you? who has been sophistical with you? but, "Who hath cast an envious eye on you?" thus tempering his reprimand with somewhat of praise. For it implies that their previous course had excited jealousy, and that the present occurrence arose from the malignity of a demon, whose breath had blasted their prosperous estate.
And when you hear of jealousy in this place, and in the Gospel, of an evil eye, which means the same, you must not suppose that the glance of the eye has any natural power to injure those who look upon it. For the eye, that is, the organ itself, cannot be evil; but Christ in that place means jealousy by the term. To behold, simply, is the function of the eye, but to behold in an evil manner belongs to a mind depraved within. As through this sense the knowledge of visible objects enters the soul, and as jealousy is for the most part generated by wealth, and wealth and sovereignty and pomp are perceived by the eye, therefore he calls the eye evil; not as beholding merely, but as beholding enviously from some moral depravity. Therefore by the words, "Who hath looked enviously on you," he implies that the persons in question acted, not from concern, not to supply defects, but to mutilate what existed. For envy, far from supplying what is wanting, subtracts from what is complete, and vitiates the whole. And he speaks thus, not as if envy had any power of itself, but meaning, that the teachers of these doctrines did so from envious motives.
Ver. 1. "Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth, crucified."
Yet was He not crucified in Galatia, but at Jerusalem. His reason for saying, " among you," is to declare the power of faith to see events which are at a distance. He says not, "crucified," but, "openly set forth crucified," signifying that by the eye of faith they saw more distinctly than some who were present as spectators. For many of the latter received no benefit, but the former, who were not eye-witnesses, yet saw it by faith more clearly. These words convey both praise and blame; praise, for their implicit acceptance of the truth; blame, because Him whom they had seen, for their sakes, stripped naked, transfixed, nailed to the cross, spit upon, mocked, fed with vinegar, upbraided by thieves, pierced with a spear; (for all this is implied in the words, "openly set forth, crucified,") Him had they left, and betaken themselves to the Law, unshamed by any of those sufferings. Here observe how Paul, leaving all mention of heaven, earth, and sea, every where preaches the power of Christ, bearing about as he did, and holding up His. cross: for this is the sum of the Divine love. toward us.
Ver 2. "This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?"
As ye do not attend, says he, to long discourses, nor are willing to contemplate the magnitude of this Economy, I am desirous, (seeing your extreme ignorance,) to convince you by concise arguments and a summary method of proof. Before, he had convinced them by what he said to Peter; now, he encounters them entirely with arguments, drawn not from what had occurred elsewhere, but from what had happened among themselves. And his persuasives and proofs are adduced, not merely from what was given them in common with others, but from what was especially conferred on themselves. Therefore he says, "This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith." Ye have received, he says, the Holy Spirit, ye have done many mighty works, ye have effected miracles in raising the dead, in cleansing lepers, in prophesying, in speaking with tongues,—did the LaW confer this great power upon you? was it not rather Faith, seeing that, before, ye could do no such things? Is it not then the height of madness for these who have received such benefits from Faith, to abandon it, and desert back to the Law which can offer you nothing of the same kind?
Ver. 3. "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?"
Here again he seasonably interposes a rebuke; time, he says, should have brought improvement; but, so far from advancing, ye have even retrograded. Those who start from small beginnings make progress to higher things; ye, who began with the high, have relapsed to the low. Even had your outset been carnal, your advance should have been spiritual, but now, after starting from things spiritual, ye have ended your journey in that which is carnal; for to work miracles is spiritual, but to be circumcised is carnal. And after miracles ye have passed to circumcision, after having apprehended the truth ye have fallen back to types, after gazing on the sun ye seek a candle, after having strong meat ye run for milk. He says, "made perfect," which means not "initiated" merely, but "sacrificed," signifying that their teachers took and slew them like animals, while they resigned themselves to suffer what those teachers pleased. As if some captain, or distinguished man, after a thousand victories and trophies, were to subject himself to infamy as a deserter, and offer his body to be branded at the will of others.
Ver. 4. "Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain."
This remark is far more piercing than the former, for the remembrance of their miracles would not be so powerful as the exhibition of their contests and endurance of sufferings for Christ's sake. All that you have endured, says he, these men would strip you of, and would rob you of your crown. Then, lest he should dismay and unnerve, he proceeds not to a formal judgment, but subjoins, "if it be indeed in vain;" if you have but a mind to shake off drowsiness and recover yourselves, he says, it is not in vain. Where then be those who would cut off repentance? Here were men who had received the Spirit, worked miracles, become confessors, encountered a thousand perils and persecutions for Christ's sake, and after so many achievements had fallen from grace; nevertheless he says, if ye have the purpose, ye may recover yourselves.
Ver. 5. "He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
Have ye been vouchsafed, he says, so great a gift, and achieved such wonders, because ye observed the Law, or because ye adhered to Faith? plainly on account of Faith. Seeing that they played this argument to and fro, that apart from the Law, Faith had no force, he proves the contrary, viz., that if the Commandments be added, Faith no longer avails; for Faith then has efficacy when things from the Law are not added to it. "Ye who would be justified by the Law, ye are fallen away from grace:" (Gal. v: 4.) This he says later, when his language has grown bolder, employing the vantage-ground by. that time gained; meanwhile while gaining it, he argues from their past experience. For it was when ye obeyed Faith, he says, not the Law, that ye received the Spirit and wrought miracles.
And here, as the Law was the subject of discuss;on, he moots another special point of controversy, and very opportunely and with much cogency introduces a notice of Abraham.
Ver. 6. "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. "
Even the miracles done by themselves, he says, declare the power of Faith, but I shall attempt if you will suffer me to draw my proofs from ancient narratives also. Then, as they made great account of the Patriarch, he brings his example forward, and shows that he too was justified by Faith. And if he who was before grace, was justified by Faith, although plentiful in works, much more we. For what loss was it to him, not being under the Law? None, for his faith sufficed unto righteousness. The Law did not then exist, he says, neither does it now exist, any more than then. In disproving the need of the Law, he introduces one who was justified before the Law, lest an objection should also be made to him; for as then it was not yet given, so now, having been given, it was abrogated. And as they made much of their descent from Abraham, and feared lest, abandoning the Law, they should be considered strangers to his kin; Paul removes this fear by turning their argument against themselves, and proves that faith is especially concerned in connecting them with Abraham. He draws out this argument more at length in the Epistle to the Romans; however he urges it also here in, the words,
Ver. 7. "Know therefore, that they which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham."
Which he proves by ancient testimony thus:
Ver. 8. "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel Beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed."
If then those were Abraham's sons, not, who were related to him by blood, but who follow his faith, for this is the meaning of the words, "In thee all the nations," it is plain that the heathen are brought into kindred with him.
Hereby too is proved another important point. It perplexed them that the Law was the older, and Faith afterwards. Now he removes this notion by showing that Faith was anterior to the Law; as is evident from Abraham's case, who was justified before the giving of the Law. He shows too that late events fell out according to prophecy; "The Scripture," says he, "fore-seeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand unto Abraham." Attend to this point. He Himself who gave the Law, had decreed, before He gave it, that the heathen should be justified by Faith. And he says not "revealed," but, "preached the Gospel," to signify that the patriarch was in joy at this method of justification, and in great desire for its accomplishment.
Further, they were possessed with another apprehension; it was written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law, to do them." (Deut. xxvii: 26.) And this he removes, with great skill and prudence, turning their argument against themselves, and showing that those who relinquish the Law are not only not cursed, but blessed; and they who keep it, not only not blessed but cursed. They said that he who kept not the Law was cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered . to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed. And how does he prove all this? for it is no common thing which we have promised; wherefore it is necessary to give close attention to what follows. He had already shown this, by referring to the words spoken to the Patriarch, "In thee shall all nations be blessed," (Gen. xii: 4.) at a time, that is, when Faith existed, not the Law; so he adds by way of conclusion,
Ver. 9. "So then they which be of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham."
Then, that they might not turn round, and object that, true it was Abraham was justified by Faith, for the Law was not then given, but what instance would be found of Faith justifying after the delivery of the Law? he addresses himself to this, and proves more than they required: namely, not only that Faith was justifying, but that the Law brought its adherents under a curse. To be sure of this, listen to the very words of the Apostle.
Ver. 10. "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse."
This is what he lays down, before proving it; and what is the proof? it is from the Law itself:—
Ver. 10, 11. "For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law to do them. Now that no man is justified by the Law is evident."
For all have sinned, and are under the curse. However he does not say this yet, lest he should seem to lay it down of himself, but here again establishes his point by a text which concisely states both points; that no man has fulfilled the Law, (wherefore they are under the curse,) and, that Faith justifies. What then is the text? It is in the book of the prophet Habakkuk, "The just shall live by faith," (Hab. ii: 4.) which not only establishes the righteousness that is of Faith, but also that there is no salvation through the Law. As no one, he says, kept the Law, but all were under the curse, on account of transgression, an easy way was provided, that from Faith, which is in itself a strong proof that no man can be justified by the Law. For the prophet says not, "The just shall live by the Law," but," by faith:"
Ver. 12. "And the Law is not of faith; but He that doeth them shall live in them."
For the Law requires not only Faith but works also, but grace saves and justifies by Faith. (Eph. ii: 8.)
You see how he proves that they are under the curse who cleave to the Law, because it is impossible to fulfill it; next, how comes Faith to have this justifying power? for to this doctrine he already stood pledged, and now maintains it with great force of argument. The Law being too weak to lead man to righteousness, an effectual remedy was provided in Faith, which is the means of rendering that possible which was "impossible by the Law." (Rom. viii: 3.) Now as the Scripture says, "the just shall live by faith," thus repudiating salvation by the Law, and moreover as Abraham was justified by Faith, it is evident that its efficacy is very great. And it is also clear, that he who abides not by the Law is cursed, and that he who keeps to Faith is just. But, you may ask me, how I prove that this curse is not still of force? Abraham lived before the Law, but we, who once were subject to the yoke of bondage, have made ourselves liable to the curse; and who shall release us therefrom? Observe his ready answer to this; his former remark was sufficient; for, if a man be once justified, and has died to the Law and embraced a novel life, how can such a one be subject to the curse? however, this is not enough for him, so he begins with a fresh argument, as follows :—
Ver. 13. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."
In reality, the people were subject to another curse, which says, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in the things that are written in the book of the Law." (Deut. xxvii: 26.) To this curse, I say, people were subject, for no man had continued in, or was a keeper of, the whole Law; but Christ exchanged this curse for the other, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." As then both he who hanged on a tree, and he who transgresses the Law, is cursed, and as it was necessary for him who is about to relieve from a curse himself to be free from it, but to receive another instead of it, therefore Christ took upon Him such another, and thereby relieved us from the curse. It was like an innocent man's undertaking to die for another sentenced to death, and so rescuing him from punishment. For Christ took upon Him not the curse of transgression, but the other curse, in order to remove that of others. For, "He had done no violence neither was any deceit in His mouth." (Isa. liii: 9; 1 Peter ii: 22.) And as by dying He rescued from death those who were dying, so by taking upon Himself the curse, He delivered them from it.
Ver. 14. "That upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham."
How on the Gentiles? It is said, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed:" (Gen. xxii: 18; xxvi: 4.) that is to say, in Christ. If this were said of the Jews, how would it be reasonable that they who were themselves subject to the curse, on account of transgression, should become the authors of a blessing to others? an accursed person cannot impart to others that blessing of which he is himself deprived. Plainly then it all refers to Christ who was the Seed of Abraham, and through whom the Gentiles are blessed. And thus the promise of the Spirit is added, as Paul himself declares, "that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." As the grace of the Spirit could not possibly descend on the graceless and offending, they are first blessed the curse having been removed; then being justified by faith, they draw unto themselves the grace of the Spirit. Thus the Cross removed the curse, Faith brought in righteousness, righteousness drew on the grace of the Spirit.
Ver. 15. "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void or addeth thereto."
"To speak after the manner of men" means to use human examples. Having founded his argument on the Scriptures, on the miracles wrought among themselves, on the sufferings of Christ, and on the Patriarch, he proceeds to common usages; and this he does invariably, in order to sweeten his discourse, and render it more acceptable and intelligible to the duller sort. Thus he argues with the Corinthians, "Who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not the fruit thereof?" (1 Cor. ix: 7.) and again with the Hebrews, "For a testament is of force where there hath been death; for doth it ever avail while he that made it liveth?" (Heb. ix: 17. ) One may find him dwelling with pleasure on such arguments. In the Old Testament God does the same thing in many instances, as, "Cab a woman forget her sucking child?" (Isa. xlix: 15.) and again, "Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?" (Isa. xlv: 9.) and in Hosea, He represents a husband set at nought by his wife. (Hos. ii: 5, f.) This use of human examples frequently occurs in types also, as when the prophet takes the girdle, (Jer. xiii 1-9.) and goes down to the potter's house (Jer. xviii: 1-6.) The meaning of the present example is, that Faith is more ancient than the Law, which is later and only temporary, and delivered in order to pave the way for Faith. Hence he says, "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men;" above he had called them "foolish," now he calls them "brethren," at once chiding and encouraging them. "Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed." If a man, says he, makes a covenant, does any one dare to come afterwards and overturn it, or subjoin aught to it? for this is the meaning of "or addeth thereto." Much less then when God makes a covenant; and with whom did God make a covenant?
Ver. 16, 17, 18. "Now to Abraham were the promises spoken and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of One, And to thy seed, which is Christ. Now this I say, A covenant, confirmed before hand by God the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance is of the Law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise."
Thus God made a covenant with Abraham, promising that in his seed the blessing should come upon the heathen; and this blessing the Law cannot turn aside. As this example was not in all respects appropriate to the matter in hand, he introduces it thus, "I speak after the manner of men," that nothing might be deduced from it derogatory to the majesty of God. But let us go to the bottom of this illustration. It was promised Abraham that by his seed the heathen should be blessed; and his seed according to the flesh is Christ; four hundred and thirty years after came the Law; now, if the Law bestows the blessings even life and righteousness, that promise is annulled. And so while no one annuls a man's covenant, the covenant of God after four hundred and thirty years is annulled; for if not that covenant but another instead of it bestows what is promised, then is it set aside, which is most unreasonable.
Ver. 19. "What then is the Law? it was added because of transgressions."
This remark again is not superfluous; observe too how he glances round at every thing, as if he had an hundred eyes. Having exalted Faith, and proved its eider claims, that the Law may not be considered superfluous, he sets right this side of the doctrine also, and proves that the Law was not given without a view, but altogether profitably. "Because of transgressions;" that is to say, that the Jews might not be let live carelessly, and plunge into the depth of wickedness, but that the Law might be placed upon them as a bridle, guiding, regulating, and checking them from transgressing, if not all, at least some of the commandments. Not slight then was the advantage of the Law; but for how long?
Ver. 19. "Till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made."
This is said of Christ; if then it was given until His advent, why do you protract it beyond its natural period?
Ver. 19. "And it was ordained through Angels by the hand of a Mediator."
He either calls the priests Angels, or he declares that the Angels themselves ministered to the delivery of the Law. By Mediator here he means Christ, and shows that He was before it, and Himself the Giver of it.
Ver. 20. "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one."
What can the heretics say to this? for as, according to them, the expression "the Only True God" excludes the Son from being true God, so here the phrase "God is One," excludes Him from being God in any sense. But if, although the Father is called "One God," the Son is nevertheless God, it is very plain that though the Father is called "Very God," the Son is very God likewise. Now a mediator, says he, is between two parties; of whom then is Christ the Mediator? plainly of God and of men. Observe, he says, that Christ also gave the Law; what therefore it was His to give, it is His to annul.
Ver. 21. "Is the Law then against the promises of God?"
For if the blessing is given in the seed of Abraham, but the Law brings in the curse, it must be contrary to the promises. This objection he meets, first, by a protest, in the words,
Ver. 21. "God forbid:" And next he brings his proof;
Ver. 21. "For if there had been a law given which could make alive. verily righteousness would have been of the Law."
His meaning is as follows; If we had our hope of life in the Law, and our salvation depended on it, the objection might be valid. But if it save you, by means of Faith, though it brings you under the curse, you suffer nothing from it, gain no harm, in that Faith comes and sets all right. Had the promise been by the Law, you had reasonably feared lest, separating from the Law, you should separate from righteousness, but if it was given in order to shut up all, that is, to convince all and expose their individual sins, far from excluding you from the promises, it now aids you in obtaining them. This is shown by the words,
Ver. 22. "Howbeit the scripture hath shut up all things trader sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."
As the Jews were not even conscious of their own sins, and in consequence did not even desire remission; the Law was given to probe their wounds, that they might long for a physician. And the word "shut up" means "convinced" and conviction held them in fear. You see then it is not only not against, but was given for the promises. Had it arrogated to itself the work and the authority, the objection would stand; but if its drift is something else, and it acted for that, how is it against the promises of God? Had the Law not been given, all would have been wrecked upon wickedness, and there would have been no Jews to listen to Christ; but now being given, it has effected two things; it has schooled its followers in a certain degree of virtue, and has pressed on them the knowledge of their own sins. And this especially made them more zealous to seek the Son, for those who disbelieved, disbelieved from having no sense of their own sins, as Paul shows; "For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not subject themselves to the rightousness of God." (Rom. x: 3.)
Ver. 23. "But before faith came, we were kept inward under the Law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed."
Here he clearly puts forward what I have stated: for the expressions "we were kept" and "shut up," signify nothing else than the security given by the commandments of the Law; which like a fortress fenced them round with fear and a life conformable to itself, and so preserved them unto Faith.
Ver. 24. "So that the Law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."
Now the Tutor is not opposed to the Preceptor, but cooperates with him, ridding the youth from all vice, and having all leisure to fit him for receiving instructions from his Preceptor. But when the youth's habits are formed, then the Tutor leaves him, as Paul says.
Ver. 25, 26. "But now that faith is come which leads to perfect manhood we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
The Law then, as it was our tutor, and we were kept shut up under it, is not the adversary but the fellow-worker of grace; but if when grace is come, it continues to hold us down, it becomes an adversary; for if it confines those who ought to go forward to grace, then it is the destruction of our salvation. If a candle which gave light by night, kept us, when it became day, from the sun, it would not only not benefit, it would injure us; and so doth the Law, if it stands between us and greater benefits. Those then are the greatest traducers of the Law, who still keep it, just as the tutor makes a youth ridiculous, by retaining him with himself, when time calls for his departure. Hence Paul says, "But after faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor." We are then no longer under a tutor, "for ye are all sons of God." Wonderful! see how mighty is the power of Faith, and how he unfolds as he proceeds! Before, he showed that it made them sons of the Patriarch, "Know therefore," says he, "that they which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham;" now he proves that they are sons of God also, "For ye are all," says he, "sons of God through faith, which is in Christ Jesus;" by Faith, not by the Law. Then, when he has said this great and wonderful thing, he names also the mode of their adoption,
Ver. 27. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ, did put on Christ."
Why does he not say, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have been born of God?" for this was what directly went to prove that they were sons;—because he states it in a much more awful point of view; If Christ be the Son of God, and thou hast put on Him, thou who hast the Son within thee, and art fashioned after His pattern, hast been brought into one kindred and nature with Him.
Ver. 28. "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female: for ye all are one in Christ Jesus."
See what an insatiable soul! for having said, "We are all made children of God through Faith," he does not stop there, but tries to find something more exact, which may serve to convey a still closer oneness with Christ. Having said, "ye have put on Christ," even this does not suffice Him, but by way of penetrating more deeply into this union, he comments on it thus: "Ye are all One in Christ Jesus," that is, ye have all one form and one mould, even Christ's. What can be more awful than these words! He that was a Greek, or Jew, or bond-man yesterday, carries about with him the form, not of an Angel or Archangel, but of the Lord of all, yea displays in his own person the Christ.
Ver. 29. "And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise."
Here, you observe, he proves what he had before stated concerning the seed of Abraham,—that to him and to his seed the promises were given.
"But I say, that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bond-servant, though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards, until the term appointed of the father. So we also when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world.".
The word "child" in this place denotes not age but understanding; meaning that God had from the beginning designed for us these gifts, but, as we yet continued childish, He let us be under the elements of the world, that is, new moons and sabbaths, for these days are regulated by the course of sun and moon. If then also now they bring you under law they do nothing else but lead you backward now in the time of your perfect age and maturity. And see what is the consequence of observing days; the Lord, the Master of the house, the Sovereign Ruler, is thereby reduced to the rank of a servant.
Ver. 4, 5. "But when the fulness of the time came God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, under the Law that he might redeem them which were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
Here he states two objects and effects of the Incarnation, deliverance from evil and supply of good, things which none could compass but Christ. They are these; deliverance from the curse of the Law, and promotion to sonship. Fitly does he say, that we might "receive," "[be paid,]" implying that it was due; for the promise was of old time made for these objects to Abraham, as the Apostle has himself shown at great length. And how does it appear that we have become sons? he has told us one mode, in that we have put on Christ who is the Son; and now he mentions another, in that we have received the Spirit of adoption.
Ver. 6, 7. "And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bond-servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."
Had not we been first made sons, we could not have called Him Father. If then grace hath made us freemen instead of slaves, men instead of children, heirs and sons instead of aliens, is it not utter absurdity and stupidity to desert this grace, and to turn away backwards?
Ver. 8, 9. "Howbeit at that time not knowing God, ye were bondage to them which buy nature are no gods. But now, that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again."
Here turning to the Gentile believers he says that it is an idolatry, this rigid observance of days, and now incurs a severe punishment. To enforce this, and inspire them with a deeper anxiety, he calls the elements "not by nature Gods." And his meaning is,—Then indeed, as being benighted and bewildered, ye lay grovelling upon the earth, but now that ye have known God or rather are known of Him, how great and bitter will be the chastisement ye draw upon you, if, after such a treatment, ye relapse into the same disease. It was not by your own pains that ye found out God, but while ye continued in error, He drew you to Himself. He says "weak and beggarly rudiments," in that they avail nothing towards the good things held out to us.
Ver. 10. "Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years." Hence is plain that their teachers were preaching to them not only circumscision, but also the feast-days and new-moons.
Ver. 11. "I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain."
Observe the tender compassion of the Apostle; they were shaken and he trembles and fears. And hence he has put it so as thoroughly to shame them, "I have bestowed labor upon you," saying, as it were, make not vain the labors which have cost me sweat and pain. By saying "I fear," and subjoining the word "lest," he both inspires alarm, and encourages good hope. He says not "I have labored in vain," but "lest," which is as much as to say, the wreck has not happened, but I see the storm big with it; so I am in fear, yet not in despair; ye have the power to set all right, and to return into your former calm. Then, as it were stretching out a hand to them thus tempest-tost, he brings himself into the midst, saying,
Ver. 12. "I beseech you, brethren, be as I am; for I am as you are."
This is addressed to his Jewish disciples, and he brings his own example forward, to induce them thereby to abandon their old customs. Though you had none other for a pattern, he says, to look at me only would have sufficed for such a change, and for your taking courage. Therefore gaze on me; I too was once in your state of mind, especially so; I had a burning zeal for the Law; yet afterwards I feared not to abandon the Law, to withdraw from that rule of life. And this ye know full well how obstinately I clung hold of Judiaism, and how with yet greater force I let it go. He does well to place this last in order: for most men, though they are given a thousand reasons, and those just ones, are more readily influenced by that which is like their own case, and more firmly hold to that which they see done by others.
Ver. 12. "Ye did me no wrong."
Observe how he again addresses them by a title of honor, which was a reminder moreover of the doctrine of grace. Having chid them seriously, and brought things together from all quarters, and shown their violations of the Law, and hit them on many sides, he gives in and conciliates them speaking more tenderly. For as to do nothing but conciliate causes negligence, so to be constantly talked at with sharpness sours a man; so that it is proper to observe due proportion everywhere. See then how he excuses to them what he has said, and shows that it proceeded not simply because he did not like them, but from anxiety. After giving them a deep cut, he pours in this encouragement like oil; and, showing that his words were not words of hate or enmity, he reminds them of the love which they had evinced toward him, mixing his self-vindication with praises. Therefore he says, "ye did me no wrong."
Ver. 13, 14. "But ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you the first time. And that which was a temptation in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected."
Not to have injured one is indeed no great thing, for no man whatever would choose to hurt wantonly and without object to annoy another who had never injured him. But for you, not only have ye not injured me, but ye have shown me great and inexpressible kindness, and it is impossible that one who has been treated with such attention should speak thus from any malevolent motive. My language then cannot be caused by ill-will; it follows, that it proceeds from affection and solicitude. "Ye did me no wrong; ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you." What can be gentler than this holy soul, what sweeter, or more affectionate! And the words he had already used, arose not from an unreasoning anger, nor from a passionate emotion, but from much solicitude. And why do I say, ye have not injured me? Rather have ye evinced a great and sincere regard for me. For "ye know," he says, "that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you; and that which was a temptation to you in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected." What does he mean? While I preached to you, I was driven about, I was scourged, I suffered a thousand deaths, yet ye thought no scorn of me; for this is meant by that which was a temptation to you in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected." Observe his spiritual skill; in the midst of his self-vindication, he again appeals to their feelings by showing what he had suffered for their sakes. This however, says he, did not at all offend you, nor did ye reject me on account of my sufferings and persecutions; or, as he now calls them, his infirmity and temptation.
Ver. 14. "But ye received me as an Angel of God."
Was it not then absurd in them to receive him as an Angel of God, when he was persecuted and driven about, and then not to receive him when pressing on them what was fitting?
Ver. 15, 16. "Where then is that gratulation of yourselves? for I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes, and given them to me. So then am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"
Here he shows perplexity and amazement, and desires to learn of themselves the reason of their change. Who, says he, hath deceived you, and caused a difference in your disposition towards me? Are ye not the same who attended and ministered to me, counting me more precious than your own eyes? what then has happened? whence this dislike? whence this suspicion? Is it because I have told you the truth? You ought on this very account to pay me increased honor and attention; instead of which "I am become your enemy, because I tell you the truth,"—for I can find no other reason but this. Observe too what humbleness of mind appears in his defence of himself; he proves not by his conduct to them, but by theirs to him that his language could not possibly have proceeded from unkind feeling. For he says not; How is it supposable that one, who has been scourged and driven about, and ill-treated a thousand things for your sakes, should now have schemes against you? But he argues from what they had reason to boast of, saying, How can one who has been honored by you, and received as an Angel, repay you by conduct the very opposite?
Ver. 17. "They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out that ye may seek them."
It is a wholesome emulation which leads to an imitation of virtue, but an evil one, which seduces from virtue him who is in the right path. And this is the object of those persons, who would deprive you of perfect knowledge, and impart to you that which is mutilated and spurious, and this for no other purpose than that they may occupy the rank of teachers, and degrade you, who now stand higher than themselves, to the position of disciples. For this is the meaning of the words "that ye may seek them." But I, says he, desire the reverse, that ye may become a model for them, and a pattern of a higher perfection: a thing which actually happened when I was present with you. Wherefore he adds,
Ver. 18. "But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you."
Here he hints that his absence had been the cause of this, and that the true blessing was for disciples to hold right opinions not only in the presence but also in the absence of their master. But as they had not arrived at this point of perfection, he makes every effort to place them there.
Ver. 19. "My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you. "
Observe his perplexity and perturbation, "Brethren, I beseech you:" "My little children, of whom I am again in travail:" He resembles a mother trembling for her children. "Until Christ be formed in you." Behold his paternal tenderness, behold this despondency worthy of an Apostle. Observe what a wail he utters, far more piercing than of a woman in travail;—Ye have defaced the likeness, ye have destroyed the kinship, ye have changed the form, ye need another regeneration and refashioning; nevertheless I call you children, abortions and monsters though ye be. However, he does not express himself in this way, but spares them, unwilling to strike, and to inflict wound upon wound. Wise physicians do not cure those who have fallen into a long sickness all at once, but little by little, lest they should faint and die. And so is it with this blessed man; for these pangs were more severe in proportion as the force of his affection was stronger. And the offense was of no trivial kind. And as I have ever said and ever will say, even a slight fault mars the appearance and distorts the figure of the whole.
"Ver. 20. "Yea, I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my voice."
Observe his warmth, his inability to refrain himself, and to conceal these his feelings; such is the nature of love; nor is he satisfied with words, but desires to be present with them, and so, as he says, to change his voice, that is, to change to lamentation, to shed tears, to turn every thing into mourning. For he could not by letter show his tears or cries of grief, and therefore he ardently desires to be present with them.
Ver. 20. "For I am perplexed about you." I know not, says he, what to say, or what to think. How is it, that ye who by dangers, which ye endured for the faith's sake, and by miracles, which ye performed through faith, had ascended to the highest heaven, should suddenly be brought to such a depth of degradation as to be drawn aside to circumcision or sabbaths, and should rely wholly upon Judaizers? Hence in the beginning he says, "I marvel that ye are so quickly removing," and here, "I am perplexed about you," as if he said, What am I to speak? What am I to utter? What am I to think? I am bitterly perplexed. And so he must needs weep, as the prophets do when in perplexity; for not only admonition but mourning also is a form in which solicitous attention is often manifested. And what he said in his speech to those at Miletus, "By the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one ... with tears," he says here also, "and to change my voice. "(Acts xx: 31. ) When we find ourselves overcome by perplexity and helplessness which come contrary to expectation, we are driven to tears; and so Paul admonished them sharply, and endeavored to shame them, then in turn soothed them, and lastly he wept. And this weeping is not only a reproof but a blandishment; it does not exasperate like reproof, nor relax like indulgent treatment, but is a mixed remedy, and of great efficacy in the way of exhortation. Having thus softened and powerfully engaged their hearts by his tears, he again advances to the contest, and lays down a larger propostion, proving that the Law itself was opposed to its being kept. Before, he produced the example of Abraham, but now (what is more cogent) he brings forward the Law itself enjoining them not to keep itself, but to leave off. So that, says he, you must abandon the Law, if you would obey it, for this is its own wish: this however he does not say expressly, but enforces it in another mode, mixing up with it an account of facts.
Ver. 21. "Tell me," he says, "ye that desire to be under the Law, do ye not hear the Law?"
He says rightly, "ye that desire," for the matter was not one of a proper and orderly succession of things but of their own unseasonable contentiousness. It is the Book of Creation which he here calls the Law, which name he often gives to the whole Old Testament.
Ver. 22. "For it is written, (Gen. xv: 16.) that Abraham had two sons, one by the hand-maid and the other by the freewoman."
He returns again to Abraham, not in the way of repetition, but, inasmuch as the Patriarch's fame was great among the Jews, to show that the types had their origin from thence, and that present events were pictured aforetime in him. Having previously shown that the Galatians were sons of Abraham, now, in that the Patriarch's sons were not of equal dignity, one being by a bondwoman, the other by a free-woman, he shows that they were not only his sons, but sons in the same sense as he that was freeborn and noble. Such is the power of Faith.
Ver. 23. "Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise."
What is the meaning of "after the flesh?" Having said that Faith united us to Abraham, and it having seemed incredible to his hearers, that those who were not begotten by Abraham should be called his sons, he proves that this paradox had actually happened long ago; for that Isaac, born not according to the order of nature, nor the law of marriage, nor the power of the flesh, was yet truly his own son. He was the issue of bodies that were dead, and of a womb that was dead; his conception was not by the flesh, nor his birth by the seed, for the womb was dead both through age and barrenhess, but the Word of God fashioned Him. Not so in the case of the bondman; He came by virtue of the laws of nature, and after the manner of marriage. Nevertheless, he that was not according to the flesh was more honorable than he that was born after the flesh. Therefore let it not disturb you that ye are not born after the flesh; for from the very reason that ye are not so born, are ye most of all Abraham's kindred. The being born after the flesh renders one not more honorable, but less so, for a birth not after the flesh is more marvellous and more spiritual. And this is plain from the case of those who were born of old time; Ishmael, for instance, who was born according to the flesh, was not only a bondman, but was cast out of his father's house; but Isaac, who was born according to the promise, being a true son and free, was lord of all.
Ver. 24. "Which things contain an allegory."
Contrary to usage, he calls a type an allegory; his meaning is as follows; this history not only declares that which appears on the face of it, but announces somewhat farther, whence it is called an allegory. And what hath it announced? no less than all the things now present.
Ver. 24. "For these women" he says, "are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar."
"These: "who? the mothers of those children, Sarah and Hagar; and what are they? Two covenants, two laws. As the names of the women were given in the history, he abides by this designation of the two races, showing how much follows from the very names. How from the names?
Ver. 25. "Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia:"
The bond-woman was called Hagar, and "Hagar" is the word for Mount Sinai in the language of that country." So that it is necessary that all who are born of the Old Covenant should be bondmen, for that mountain where the Old Covenant was delivered hath a name in common with the bondwoman. And it includes Jerusalem, for this is the meaning of,
Ver. 25. "And answereth to Jerusalem that now is."
That is, it borders on, and is contiguous to it.
Ver. 25. "For she is in bondage with her children."
What follows from hence? Not only that she was in bondage and brought forth bondmen, but that this Covenant is so too, whereof the bondwoman was a type. For Jerusalem is adjacent to the mountain of the same name with the bondwoman, and in this mountain the Covenant was delivered. Now where is the type of Sarah?
Ver. 26. "But Jerusalem that is above is free."
Those therefore, who are born of her are not bondmen. Thus the type of the Jerusalem below was Hagar, as is plain from the mountain being so called; but of that which is above is the Church. Nevertheless he is not content with these types, but adds the testimony of Isaiah to what he has spoken. Having said that Jerusalem which is above "is our Mother," and having given that name to the Church, he cites the suffrage of the Prophet in his favor,
Ver. 27. "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not, break forth and cry, thou that travailest not, for more are the children of the desolate than of her which hath the husband." (Isa. liv: I. )
Who is this who before was "barren," and "desolate?" Clearly it is the Church of the Gentiles, that was before deprived of the knowledge of God? Who, "she which hath the husband?" plainly the Synagogue. Yet the barren woman surpassed her in the number of her children, for the other embraces one nation, but the children of the Church have filled the country of the Greeks and of the Barbarians, the earth and sea, the whole habitable world. Observe how Sarah by acts, and the Prophet by words, have described the events about to befal us. Observe too, that he whom Isaiah called barren, Paul hath proved to have many children, which also happened typically in the case of Sarah. For she too, although barren, became the mother of a numerous progeny. This however does not suffice Paul, but he carefully follows out the mode whereby the barren woman became a mother, that in this particular likewise the type might harmonize with the truth. Wherefore he adds
Ver. 28. "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise."
It is not merely that the Church was barren like Sarah, or became a mother of many children like her, but she bore them in the way Sarah did. As it was not nature but the promise of God which rendered Sarah a mother, [for the word of God which said, "At the time appointed I will return unto thee, and Sarah shall have a son," (Gen. xviii: 14.) this entered into the womb and formed the babe;] so also in our regeneration it is not nature, but the Words of God spoken by the Priest, (the faithful know them,) which in the Bath of water as in a sort of womb, form and regenerate him who is baptized.
Wherefore if we are sons of the barren woman, then are we free. But what kind of freedom, it might be objected, is this, when the Jews seize and scourge the believers, and those who have this pretence of liberty are persecuted? for these things then occurred, in the persecution of the faithful. Neither let this disturb you, he replies, this also is anticipated in the type, for Isaac, who was free, was persecuted by Ishmael the bondman. Wherefore he adds,
Ver. 29, 30. "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Howbeit what saith the Scripture? (Gen. xxi: 10.) Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman."
What! does all this consolation consist in showing that freemen are persecuted by bond-men? By no means, he says, I do not stop here, listen to what follows, and then, if you be not pusillanimous under persecution, you will be sufficiently comforted. And what is it that follows? "Cast out the son of the handmaid, for he shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman." Behold the reward of tyranny for a season, and of reckleness out of season! the son is cast out of his father's house, and becomes, together with his mother, an exile and a wanderer. And consider too the wisdom of the remark; for he says not that he was cast forth merely because he persecuted, but that he should not be heir. For this punishment was not exacted from him on account of his temporary persecution, (for that would have been of little moment, and nothing to the point,) but he was not suffered to participate in the inheritance provided for the son. And this proves that, putting the persecution aside, this very thing had been typified from the beginning, and did not originate in the persecution, but in the purpose of God. Nor does he say, "the son of Abraham shall not be heir," but, "the son of the handmaid," distinguishing him by his inferior descent. Now Sarah was barren, and so is the Gentile Church; observe how the type is preserved in every particular, as the former, through all the by-gone years, conceived not, and in extreme old age became a mother, so the latter, when the fulness of time is come, brings forth. And this the prophets have proclaimed, saying, "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for more are the children of the desolate than of her which hath the husband." And hereby they intend the Church; for she knew not God, but as soon as she knew Him, she surpassed the fruitful synagogue.
Ver. 31. "Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid but of the freewoman."
He turns and discusses this on all sides, desiring to prove that what had taken place was no novelty, but had been before typified many ages ago. How then can it be otherwise than absurd for those who had been set apart so long and who had obtained freedom, willingly to subject themselves to the yoke of bondage?
Next he states another inducement to them to abide in his doctrine.
"With freedom did Christ set us free;stand fast therefore.."
Have ye wrought your own deliverance, that ye run back again to the dominion ye were under before? It is Another who hath redeemed you, it is Another who hath paid the ransom for you. Observe in how many ways he leads them away from the error of Judaism; by showing, first, that it was the extreme of folly for those, who had become free instead of slaves, to desire to become slaves instead of free; secondly, that they would be convicted of neglect and ingratitude to their Benefactor, in despising Him who had delivered, and loving him who had enslaved them; thirdly, that it was impossible. For Another having once for all redeemed all of us from it, the Law ceases to have any sway. By the word,"stand fast," he indicates their vacillation.
Ver. 1. "And be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage."
By the word "yoke" he signifies to them the burdensomeness of such a course, and by the word "again" he points out their utter senselessness. Had ye never experienced this burden, ye would not have deserved so severe a censure, but for you who by trial have learnt how irksome this yoke is, again to subject yourself to it, is justly unpardonable.
Ver. 2. "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing."
Lo, what a threat! reasonably then did he anathematize even angels. How then shall Christ profit them nothing? for he has not supported this by argument, but only declared it, the credence due to his authority, compensating, as it were, for all subsequent proof· Wherefore he sets out by saying, "Behold, I Paul say unto you," which is the expression of one who has confidence in what he asserts. We will subjoin what we can ourselves as to how Christ shall profit nothing them who are circumcised.
He that is circumcised is circumcised for fear of the Law, and he no tears the Law, distrusts the power of grace, and he who distrusts can receive no benefit from that which is distrusted. Or again thus, he that is circumcised makes the Law of force; but thus considering it to be of force and yet transgressing it in the greater part while keeping it in the lesser, he puts himself again under the curse. But how can he be saved who submits himself to the curse, and repels the liberty which is of Faith? If one may say what seems a paradox, such an one believes neither Christ nor the Law, but stands between them, desiring to benefit both by one and the other, whereas he will reap fruit from neither. Having said that Christ shall profit them nothing, he lays down the proof of it shortly and sententiously, thus:
Ver. 3. "Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision that he is a debtor to do the whole Law."
That you may not suppose that this is spoken from ill-will, I say not to you alone, he says, but to every one who receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole Law. The parts of the Law are linked one to the other. As he who from being free has enrolled himself as a slave, no longer does what he pleases, but is bound by all the laws of slavery, so in the case of the Law, if you take upon you a small portion of it, and submit to the yoke, you draw down upon yourself its whole domination. And so it is in a worldly inheritance: he who touches no part of it, is free from all matters which are consequent on the heirship to the deceased, but if he takes a small portion, though not the whole, yet by that part he has rendered himself liable for every thing. And this occurs in the Law, not only in the way I have mentioned, but in another also, for Legal observances are linked together. For example; Circumcision has sacrifice connected with it, and the observance of days; sacrifice again has the observance both of day and of place; place has the details of endless purifications; purifications involve a perfect swarm of manifold observances. For it is unlawful for the unclean to sacrifice, to enter the holy shrines, to do any other such act. Thus the Law introduces many things even by the one commandment. If then thou art circumcised, but not on the eighth day, or on the eighth day, but no sacrifice is offered, or a sacrifice is offered, but not in the prescribed place, or in the prescribed place, but not the accustomed objects, or if the accustomed objects, but thou be unclean, or if clean yet not purified by proper rules, every thing is frustrated. Wherefore he says, "that he is a debtor to the the whole Law." Fulfil not a part, but the whole, if the Law is of force; but if it be not of force, not even a part.
Ver. 4. "Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace."
Having established his point, he at length declares their danger of the severest punishment. When a man recurs to the Law, which cannot save him, and falls from grace, what remains but an inexorable retribution, the Law being powerless, and grace rejecting him?
Thus having aggravated their alarm, and disquieted their mind, and shown them all the shipwreck they were about to suffer, he opens to them the haven of grace which was near at hand. This is ever his wont, and he shows that in this quarter salvation is easy and secure, subjoining the words,
Ver. 5. "For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness."
We need none of those legal observances, he says; faith suffices to obtain for us the Spirit, and by Him righteousness, and many and great benefits.
Ver. 6. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love."
Observe the great boldness with which he now encounters them; Let him that hath put on Christ, he says, no longer be careful about such matters. Having before said that Circumcision was hurtful, how is it that he now considers it indifferent? It is indifferent as to those who bad it previously to the Faith, but not as to those who are circumcised after the Faith was given. Observe too the view in which he places it, by setting it by the side of Uncircumcision; it is Faith that makes the difference. As in the selection of wrestlers, whether they be hook-nosed or flat-nosed, black or white, is of no importance in their trial, it is only necessary to seek that they be strong and skilful; so all these bodily accidents do not injure one who is to be enrolled under the New Covenant, nor does their presence assist him.
What is the meaning of "working through love?" Here he gives them a hard blow, by showing that this error had crept in because the love of Christ had not been rooted within them. For to believe is not all that is required, but also to abide in love. It is as if he had said, Had ye loved Christ as ye ought, ye would not have deserted to bondage, nor abandoned Him who redeemed you, nor treated with contumely Him who gave you freedom. Here he also hints at those who have plotted against them, implying that they would not have dared to do so, had they felt affection towards them. He wishes too by these words to correct their course of life.
Ver. 7. "Ye were running well; who did hinder you?
This is not an interrogation, but an expression of doubt and sorrow. How hath such a course been cut short? who hath been able to do this? ye who were superior to all and in the rank of teachers, have not even continued in the position of disciples. What has happened? who could do this? these are rather the words of one who is exclaiming and lamenting, as he said before, "Who did bewitch you?" (Gal. iii: 1.)
Ver. 8. "This persuasion came not of him that calleth you."
He who called you, called you not to such fluctuations, he did not lay down a Law, that you should judaize. Then, that no one might object, "Why do you thus magnify and aggravate the matter by your words; one commandment only of the Law have we kept, and yet you make this great outcry?" hear how he terrifies them, not by things present but future in these words:
Ver. 7. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." And thus this slight error, he says, if not corrected, will have power (as the leaven has with the lump) to lead you into complete Judaism.
Ver. 10. "I have confidence to you-ward in the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded."
He does not say, "ye are not minded," but, "ye will not be minded;" that is, you will be set right. And how does he know this? he says not "I know," but "I trust in God, and invoking His aid in order to your correction, I am in hopes;" and he says, not merely, "I have confidence in the Lord," but, "I have confidence towards you in the Lord." Every where he connects complaint with his praises; here it is as if he had said, I know my disciples, I know your readiness to be set right. I have good hopes, partly because of the Lord who suffers nothing, however trival, to perish, partly because of you who are quickly to recover yourselves. At the same time he exhorts them to use diligence on their own parts, it not being possible to obtain aid from God, if our own efforts are not contributed.
Ver. 10. "But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be."
Not only by words of encouragement, but by uttering a curse or a prophecy against their teachers, he applies to them an incentive. And observe that he never mentions the name of these plotters, that they might not become more shameless. His meaning is as follows. Not because "ye will be none otherwise minded," are the authors of your seduction relieved from punishment. They shall be punished; for it is not proper that the good conduct of the one should become an encouragement to the evil disposition of the other. This is said that they might not make a second attempt upon others. And he says not merely, "he that troubleth," but, "whosoever he be," in the way of aggravation.
Ver. 11. "But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?"
Observe how clearly he exonerates himself from the charge, that in every place he judaized and played the hypocrite in his preaching. Of this he calls them as witnesses; for ye know, he says, that my command to abandon the Law was made the pretext for persecuting me. "If I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? for this is the only charge which they of the Jewish descent have to bring against me. Had I permitted them to receive the Faith, still retaining the customs of their fathers, neither believers nor unbelievers would have laid snares for me, seeing that none of their own usages were disturbed. What then! did he not preach circumcision? did he not circumcise Timothy? Truly he did. How then can he say, "I preach it not?" Here observe his accuracy; he says not, "I do not perform circumcision," but, "I preach it not," that is, I do not bid men so to believe. Do not therefore consider it any confirmation of your doctrine, for though I circumdised, I did not preach circumcision.
Ver. 11. "Then hath the stumbling block of the cross been done away."
That is, if this which ye assert be true, the obstacle, the hindrance, is removed; for not even the Cross was so great an offence to the Jews, as the doctrine that their father's customs ought not to be obeyed. When they brought Stephen before the council, they said not that this man adores the Crucified, but that he speaks "against this holy place and the Law." (Acts vi: 13.) And it was of this they accused Jesus, that He broke the Law. Wherefore Paul says, If Circumcision be conceded, the strife you are involved in is appeased; hereafter no enmity to the Cross and our preaching remains. But why do they bring this charge against us, while waiting day after day to murder us? it is because I brought an uncircumcised man into the Temple (Acts xxi: 29. ) that they fell upon me. Am I then, he says, so senseless, after giving up the point of Circumcision, vainly and idly to expose myself to such injuries, and to place such a stumbling-block before the Cross? For ye observe, that they attack us for nothing with such vehemence as about Circumcision. Am I then so senseless as to suffer affliction for nothing at all, and to give offence to others? He calls it the offence of the Cross, because it was enjoined by the doctrine of the Cross; and it was this which principally offended the Jews, and hindered their reception of the Cross, namely, the command to abandon the usages of their fathers.
Ver. 12. "I would that they which unsettle you, would even cut themselves off."
Observe how bitterly he speaks here against their deceivers. At the outset he directed his charge against those who were deceived, and called them foolish, once and again. Now, having sufficiently corrected and instructed them, he turns to their deceivers. And you should remark his wisdom in the manner in which he admonishes and chastens the former as his own children, and as capable of receiving correction, but their deceivers he cuts off, as aliens and incurably depraved. And this he does, partly, when he says, "he shall bear his judgment whosoever he be;" partly when he utters the imprecation against them, "I would that they which unsettle you would even cut themselves off." And he says well "that unsettle you." For they had compelled them to abandon their own fatherland, their liberty, and their heavenly kindred, and to seek an alien and foreign one; they had cast them out of Jerusalem which is above and free, and compelled them to wander forth as captives and emigrants. On this account he curses them; and his meaning is as follows, For them I have no concern, "A man that is heretical after the first and second admonition refuse." (Tit. iii: 10 ) If they will, let them not only be circumcised, but mutilated. Where then are those who dare to mutilate themselves; seeing that they draw down the Apostolic curse, and accuse the workmanship of God, and take part with the Manichees? For the latter call the body a treacherous thing, and from the evil principle; and the former by their acts give countenance to these wretched doctrines, cutting off the member as being hostile and treacherous. Ought they not much rather to put out the eyes, for it is through the eyes that desire enters the soul? But in truth neither the eye nor any other part of us is to blame, but the depraved will only. But if you will not allow this, why do you not mutilate the tongue for blasphemy, the hands for rapine, the feet for their evil courses, in short, the whole body? For the ear enchanted by the sound of a flute hath often enervated the soul; and the perception of a sweet perfume by the nostrils hath bewitched the mind, and made it frantic for pleasure. Yet this would be extreme wickedness and satanic madness. The evil spirit, ever delighting in slaughter, hath seduced them to crush the instrument, as if its Maker had erred, whereas it was only necessary to correct the unruly passion of the soul. How then does it happen, one may say, that when the body is pampered, lust is inflamed? Observe here too that it is the sin of the soul, for to pamper the flesh is not an act of the flesh but of the soul, for if the soul choose to mortify it, it would possess absolute power over it. But what you do is just the same as if one seeing a man lighting a fire, and heaping on fuel, and setting fire to a house, were to blame the fire, instead of him who kindled it, because it had caught this heap of fuel, and risen to a great height. Yet the blame would attach not to the fire but to the one who kindled it; for it was given for the purpose of dressing food, affording light, and other like ministries, not for burning houses. In like manner desire is implanted for the rearing of families and the ensuring of life, not for adultery, or fornication, or lasciviousness; that a man may become a father, not an adulterer; a lawful husband, not a seducer; leaving heirs after him, not doing damage to another man's. For adultery arises not from nature, but from wantonness against nature, which prescribes the use not the misuse. These remarks I have not made at random, but as a prelude to a dispute, as skirmishing against those who assert that the workmanship of God is evil, and who neglecting the sloth of the soul, madly inveigh against the body, and traduce our flesh, whereof Paul afterwards discourses, accusing not the flesh, but devilish thoughts.
Ver. 13. "For ye, brethren, were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh."
Henceforward he appears to digress into a moral discourse, but in a new manner, which does not occur in any other of his Epistles. For all of them are divided into two parts, and in the first he discusses doctrine, in the last the rule of life, but here, after having entered upon the moral discourse, he again unites with it the doctrinal part. For this passage has reference to doctrine in the controversy with the Manichees. What is the meaning of, "Use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh?" Christ hath delivered us, he says, from the yoke of bondage, He hath left us free to act as we will, not that we may use our liberty for evil, but that we may have ground for receiving a higher reward, advancing to a higher philosophy. Lest any one should suspect, from his calling the Law over and over again a yoke of bondage, and a bringing on of the curse, that his object in enjoining an abandonment of the Law, was that one might live lawlessly, he corrects this notion, and states his object to be, not that our course of life might be lawless, but that our philosophy might surpass the Law. For the bonds of the Law are broken, and I say this not that our standard may be lowered, but that it may be exalted. For both he who commits fornication, and he who leads a virgin life, pass the bounds of the Law, but not in the same direction; the one is led away to the worse, the other is elevated to the better; the one transgresses the Law, the other transcends it. Thus Paul says that Christ hath removed the yoke from you, not that ye may prance and kick, but that though without the yoke ye may proceed at a well-measured pace. And next he shows the mode whereby this may be readily eftected; and what is this mode? he says,
Ver. 13. "But through love be servants one to another."
Here again he hints that strife and party-spirit, love of rule and presumptousness, had been the causes of their error, for the desire of rule is the mother of heresies. By saying, "Be servants one to another," he shows that the evil had arisen from this presumptuous and arrogant spirit, and therefore he applies a corresponding remedy. As your divisions arose from your desire to domineer over each other, "serve one another;" thus will ye be reconciled again. However, he does not openly express their fault, but he openly tells them its corrective, that through this they may become aware of that; as if one were not to tell an immodest person of his immodesty, but were continually to exhort him to chastity. He that loves his neighbor as he ought, declines not to be servant to him more humbly than any servant. As fire, brought into contact with wax, easily softens it, so does the warmth of love dissolve all arrogance and presumption more powerfully than fire. Wherefore he says not, "love one another," merely, but, "be servants one to another," thus signifying the intensity of the affection. When the yoke of the Law was taken off them that they might not caper off and away another was laid on, that of love, stronger than the former, yet far lighter and pleasanter; and, to point out the way to obey it, he adds;
Ver. 14. "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
Seeing that they made so much of the Law, he says, "If you you wish to fulfill it, do not be circumcised, for it is fulfilled not in circumcision but in love." Observe how he cannot forget his grief, but constantly touches upon what troubled him, even when launched into his moral discourse.
Ver. 15. "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
That he may not distress them, he does not assert this, though he knew it was the case, but mentions it ambiguously. For he does not say, "Inasmuch as ye bite one another," nor again does he assert, in the clause following, that they shall be consumed by each other; but "take heed that ye be not consumed one of another," and this is the language of apprehension and warning, not of condemnation. And the words which he uses are expressly significant; he says not merely, "ye bite," which one might do in a passion, but also "ye devour," which implies a bearing of malice. To bite is to satisfy the feeling of anger, but to devour is a proof of the most savage ferocity. The biting and devouring he speaks of are not bodily, but of a much more cruel kind; for it is not such an injury to taste the flesh of man, as to fix one's fangs in his soul. In proportion as the soul is more precious than the body, is damage to it more serious. "Take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." For those who commit injury and lay plots, do so in order to destroy others; therefore he says, Take heed that this evil fall not on your own heads. For strife and dissensions are the ruin and destruction as well of those who admit as of those who introduce them, and eats out every thing worse than a moth does.
Ver. 16. "But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."
Here he points out another path which makes duty easy, and secures what had been said, a path whereby love is generated, and which is fenced in by love. For nothing, nothing I say, renders us so susceptible of love, as to be spiritual, and nothing is such an inducement to the Spirit to abide in us, as the strength of love. Therefore he says, "Walk by the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh:" having spoken of the cause of the disease, he likewise mentions the remedy which confers health. And what is this, what is the destruction of the evils we have spoken of, but the life in the Spirit? hence he says, "Walk by the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."
Ver. 17. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are contrary the one to the other: that ye may not do the things that ye would."
Here some make the charge that the Apostle has divided man into two parts, and that he states the essence of which he is compounded to be conflicting with itself, and that the body has a contest with the soul. But this is not so, most certainly; for by "the flesh," he does not mean the body; if he did, what would be the sense of the clause immediately following, "for it lusteth," he says, "against the Spirit?" yet the body moves not, but is moved, is not an agent, but is acted upon. How then does it lust, for lust belongs to the soul not to the body, for in another place it is said, "My soul longeth," (Ps. lxxx iv: 2.) and, "Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee," (1 Sam. xx: 4.) and, "Walk not according to the desires of thy heart," and, "So panteth my soul." (Ps. xlii: I.) Wherefore then does Paul say, "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit?" he is wont to call the flesh, not the natural body but the depraved will, as where he says, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit," (Rom. viii: 8, 9.) and again, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." What then? Is the flesh to be destroyed? was not he who thus spoke clothed with flesh? such doctrines are not of the flesh, but from the Devil, for "he was a murderer from the beginning." (John viii: 44.) What then is his meaning? it is the earthly mind, slothful and careless, that he here calls the flesh, and this is not an accusation of the body, but a charge against the slothful soul. The flesh is an instrument, and no one feels aversion and hatred to an instrument, but to him who abuses it. For it is not the iron instrument but the murderer, whom we hate and punish. But it may be said that the very calling of the faults of the soul by the name of the flesh is in itself an accusation of the body. And I admit that the flesh is inferior to the soul, yet it too is good, for that which is inferior to what is good may itself be good, but evil is not inferior to good, but opposed to it. Now if you are able to prove to me that evil originates from the body, you are at liberty to accuse it; but if your endeavor is to turn its name into a charge against it, you ought to accuse the soul likewise. For he that is deprived of the truth is called "the natural man." (1 Cor. xx: 14.) and the race of demons "the spirits of wickedness." (Eph. vi: 12.)
Again, the Scripture is wont to give the name of the Flesh to the Mysteries of the Eucharist, and to the whole Church, calling them the Body of Christ. (Col. i: 24.) Nay, to induce you to give the name of blessings to the things of which the flesh is the medium, you have only to imagine the extinction of the senses, and you will find the soul deprived of all discernment, and ignorant of what it before knew. For if the power of God is since "the creation of the world clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made," (Rom. i: 20.) how could we see them without eyes? and if "faith cometh of hearing," (Rom. x: 17.) how shall we hear without ears? and preaching depends on making circuits wherein the tongue and feet are employed. "For how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Rom. x: 15.) In the same way writing is performed by means of the hands. Do you not see that the ministry of the flesh produces for us a thousand benefits? In his expression, "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit," he means two mental states. For these are opposed to each other, namely virtue and vice, not the soul and the body. Were the two latter so opposed they would be destructive of one another, as fire of water, and darkness of light. But if the soul cares for the body, and takes great forethought on its account, and suffers a thousand things in order not to leave it, and resists being separated from it, and if the body too ministers to the soul, and conveys to it much knowledge, and is adapted to its operations, how can they be contrary, and conflicting with each other? For my part, I perceive by their acts that they are not only not contrary but closely accordant and attached one to another. It is not therefore of these that he speaks as opposed to each other, but he refers to the contest of bad and good principles. (Compare Rom. vii: 23.) To will and not to will belongs to the soul; wherefore he says, "these are contrary the one to the other," that you may not suffer the soul to proceed in its evil desires. For he speaks this like a Master and Teacher in a threatening way.
Ver. 18. "But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the Law."
If it be asked in what way are these two connected, I answer, closely and plainly; for he that hath the Spirit as he ought, quenches thereby every evil desire, and he that is released from these needs no help from the Law, but is exalted far above its precepts. He who is never angry, what need has he to hear the command, Thou shalt not kill? He who never casts unchaste looks, what need hath he of the admonition, Thou shalt not commit adultery? Who would discourse about the fruits of wickedness with him who had plucked up the root itself? for anger is the root of murder, and of adultery the inquisitive gazing into faces. Hence he says, "If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the Law;" wherein he appears to me to have pronounced a high and striking eulogy of the Law, if, at least, the Law stood, according to its power, in the place of the Spirit before the Spirit's coming upon us. But we are not on that account obliged to continue apart with our schoolmaster. Then we were justly subject to the Law, that by fear we might chasten our lusts, the Spirit not being manifested; but now that grace is given, which not only commands us to abstain from them, but both quenches them, and leads us to a higher rule of life, what more need is there of the Law? He who has attained an exalted excellence from an inner impulse, has no occasion for a schoolmaster, nor does any one, if he is a philosopher, require a grammarian. Why then do ye so degrade yourselves, as now to listen to the Law, having previously given yourselves to the Spirit?
Ver. 19, 20, 21. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wrath, factions, divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I forewarn you even as I did forewarn you, that they which practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Answer me now, thou that accusest thine own flesh, and supposest that this is said of it as of an enemy and adversary. Let it be allowed that adultery and fornication proceed, as you assert, from the flesh; yet hatred, variance, emulations, strife, heresies, and witchcraft, these arise merely from a depraved moral choice. And so it is with the others also, for how can they belong to the flesh? you observe that he is not here speaking of the flesh, but of earthly thoughts, which trail upon the ground. Wherefore also he alarms them by saying, that "they which practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." If these things belonged to nature and not to a bad moral choice, his expression, "they practice," is inappropriate, it should be, "they suffer." And why should they be cast out of the kingdom, for rewards and punishments relate not to what proceeds from nature but from choice?
Ver. 22. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace."
He says not, "the work of the Spirit," but, "the fruit of the Spirit." Is the soul, however, superfluous? the flesh and the Spirit are mentioned, but where is the soul? is he discoursing of beings without a soul? for if the things of the flesh be evil, and those of the Spirit good, the soul must be superfluous. By no means, for the mastery of the passions belongs to her, and concerns her; and being placed amid vice and virtue, if she has used the body fitly, she has wrought it to be spiritual, but if she separate from the Spirit and give herself up to evil desires, she makes herself more earthly. You observe throughout that his discourse does not relate to the substance of the flesh, but to the moral choice, which is or is not vicious. And why does he say, "the fruit of the Spirit?" it is because evil works originate in ourselves alone, and therefore he calls them "works," but good works require not only our diligence but God's loving kindness. He places first the root of these good things, and then proceeds to recount them, in these words, "Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law." For who would lay any command on him who hath all things within himself, and who hath love for the finished mistress of philosophy? As horses, who are docile and do every thing of their own accord, need not the lash, so neither does the soul, which by the Spirit hath attained to excellence, need the admonitions of the Law. Here too he completely and strikingly casts out the Law, not as bad, but as inferior to the philosophy given by the Spirit.
Ver. 24. "And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof."
That they might not object, "And who is such a man as this?" he points out by their works those who have attained to this perfection, here again giving the name of the "flesh" to evil actions. He does not mean that they had destroyed their flesh, otherwise how were they going to live? for that which is crucified is dead and inoperative, but he indicates the perfect rule of life. For the desires, although they are troublesome, rage in vain. Since then such is the power of the Spirit, let us live therein and be content therewith, as he adds himself,
Ver. 25. "If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk,"
—being governed by His laws. For this is the force of the words "let us walk," that is, let us be content with the power of the Spirit, and seek no help from the Law. Then, signifying that those who would fain have introduced circumcision were actuated by ambitious motives, he says,
Ver. 26. "Let us not be vainglorious," which is the cause of all evils, "provoking one another" to contentions and strife, "envying one another," for from vainglory comes envy and from envy all these countless evils.
"Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass."
Forasmuch as under cover of a rebuke they gratified their private feelings, and professing to do so for faults which had been committed, were advancing their own ambition, he says, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken." He said not if a man commit but if he be "overtaken" that is, if he be carried away.
"Ye which are spiritual restore such a one,"
He says not "chastise nor "judge, but "set right." Nor does he stop here, but in order to show that it behoved them to be very gentle towards those who had lost their footing, he subjoins,
"In a spirit of meekness."
He says not, "in meekness," but, "in a spirit of meekness," signifying thereby that this is acceptable to the Spirit, and that to be able to administer correction with mildness is a spiritual gift. Then, to prevent the one being unduly exalted by having to correct the other, puts him under the same fear, saying,
"Looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
For as rich men convey contributions to the indigent, that in case they should be themselves involved in poverty they may receive the same bounty, so ought we also to do. And therefore he states this cogent reason, in these words, "looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted." He apologizes for the offender, first, by saying "if ye be overtaken;" next, by employing a term indicative of great infirmity ; lastly, by the words "lest thou also be tempted," thus arraigning the malice of the devil rather than the remissness of the soul.
Ver. 2. "Bear ye one another's burdens."
It being impossible for man to be without failings, he exhorts them not to scrutinize severely the offences of others, but even to bear their failings, that their own may in turn be borne by others. As, in the building of a house, all the stones hold not the same position, but one is fitted for a corner but not for the foundations, another for the foundations, and not for the corner so too is it in the body of the Church. The same thing holds in the frame of our own flesh; notwithstanding which, the one member bears with the other, and we do not require every thing from each, but what each contributes in common constitutes both the body and the building.
Ver. 2. "And so fulfil the law of Christ." He says not "fulfil," but, "complete ;" that is, make it up all of you in common? by the things wherein ye bear with one another. For example, this man is irascible, thou art dull-tempered; bear therefore with his vehemence that he in turn may bear with thy sluggishness; and thus neither will he transgress, being supported by thee, nor wilt thou offend in the points where thy defects lie, because of thy brother's forbearing with thee. So do ye by reaching forth a hand one to another when about to fall, fulfil the Law in common, each completing what is wanting in his neighbor by his own endurance. But if ye do not thus, but each of you will investigate the faults of his neighbor, nothing will ever be performed by you as it ought. For as in the case of the body, if one were to exact the same function from every member of it, the body could never consist, so must there be great strife among brethren if we were to require all things from all.
Ver. 3. "For if a man thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."
Here again he reflects on their arrogance. He that thinks himself to be something is nothing, and exhibits at the outset a proof of his worthlessness by such a disposition.
Ver. 4. "But let each man prove his own work."
Here he shows that we ought to be scrutinizers of our lives, and this not lightly, but carefully to weigh our actions; as for example, if thou hast performed a good deed, consider whether it was not from vain glory, or through necessity, or malevolence, or with hypocrisy, or from some other human motive. For as gold appears to be bright before it is placed in the furnace, but when committed to the fire, is closely proved, and all that is spurious is separated from what is genuine, so too our works, if closely examined, will be distinctly made manifest, and we shall perceive that we have exposed ourselves to much censure.
Ver. 4. "And then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone and not of his neighbor."
This he says, not as laying down a rule, but in the way of concession; and his meaning is this,—Boasting is senseless, but if thou wilt boast, boast not against thy neighbor, as the Pharisee did. For he that is so instructed will speedily give up boasting altogether; and therefore he concedes a part that he may gradually extirpate the whole. He that is wont to boast with reference to himself only, and not against others, will soon reform this failing also. For he that does not consider himself better than others, for this is the meaning of "not in regard of his neighbor, but becomes elated by examining himself by himself, will afterwards cease to be so. And that you may be sure this is what he desires to establish, observe how he checks him by fear, saying above, "let every man prove his own work," and adding here,
Ver. 5. "For each man shall bear his own burden."
He appears to state a reason prohibitory of boasting against another; but at the same time he corrects the boaster, to that he may no more entertain high thoughts of himself by bringing to his remembrance his own errors, and pressing upon his conscience the idea of a burden, and of being heavily laden.
Ver. 6. "But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."
Here he proceeds to discourse concerning Teachers, to the effect that they ought to be tended with great assiduity by their disciples. Now what is the reason that Christ so commanded? For this law, "that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel," (1 Cor. ix: 14.) is laid down in the New Testament; and likewise in the Old, (Num. xxxi: 47; xxxv; 1-8.) many revenues accrued to the Levites from the people; what is the reason, I say, that He so ordained? Was it not for the sake of laying a foundation beforehand of lowliness and love? For inasmuch as the dignity of a teacher oftentimes elates him who possesses it, He, in order to repress his spirit, hath imposed on him the necessity of requiring aid at the hands of his disciples. And to these in turn he hath given means of cultivating kindly feelings, by training them, through the kindness required of them to their Teacher, in gentleness towards others also. By this means no slight affection is generated on both sides. Were not the cause of this what I have stated it to be, why should He, who fed the dull-minded Jews with manna, have reduced the Apostles to the necessity of asking for aid? Is it not manifest He aimed at the great benefits of humility and love, and that those who were under teaching might not be ashamed of Teachers who were in appearance despicable? To ask for aid bears the semblance of disgrace, but it ceased to be so, when their Teachers with all boldness urged their claim, so that their disciples derived from hence no small benefit, taught hereby to despise all appearances. Wherefore he says, "But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things," that is, let him show to him all generosity; this he implies by the words, "in all good things." Let the disciple, says he, keep nothing to himself, but have every thing in common, for what he receives is better than what he gives,—as much better as heavenly are better than earthly things. This he expresses in another place," If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?" (1 Cor. ix: II. ) Wherefore he gives the procedure the name of a "communication," showing that an interchange takes place. Hereby too love is greatly fostered and confirmed. If the teacher asks merely for competency, he does not by receiving it derogate from his own dignity. For this is praiseworthy, so assiduously to apply to the Word, as to require the aid of others, and to be in manifold poverty, and to be regardless of all the means of subsistence. But if he exceed the due measure, he injures his dignity, not by mere receiving, but by receiving too much. Then, lest the vice of the Teacher should render the disciple more remiss in this matter, and he should frequently pass him by, though poor, on account of his conduct, he proceeds to say,
Ver. 9. "And let us not be weary in well doing."
And here he points out the difference between ambition of this kind, and in temporal affairs, by saying, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life." As in the case of seeds, one who sows pulse cannot reap corn, for what is sown and what is reaped must both be of one kind, so is it in actions, he that plants in the flesh, wantonness, drunkenness, or inordinate desire, shall reap the fruits of these things. And what are these fruits? Punishment, retribution, shame, derision, destruction. For of sumptuous tables and viands the end is no other than destruction; for they both perish themselves, and destroy the body too. But the fruit of the Spirit is of a nature not similar but contrary in all respects to these. For consider I hast thou sown alms-giving? the treasures of heaven and eternal glory await thee: hast thou sown temperance? honor and reward, and the applause of Angels, and a crown from the Judge await thee.
Ver. 9, 10. "And let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. So then as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, especially toward them that are of the household of faith."
Lest any one should suppose that their Teachers were to be cared for and supported, but that others might be neglected, he makes his discourse general, and opens the door of this charitable zeal to all; nay, he carries it to such a height, as to command us to show mercy both to Jews and Greeks, in the proper gradation indeed, but still to show mercy. And what is this gradation? it consists in bestowing greater care upon the faithful. His endeavor here is the same as in his other Epistles; he discourses not merely of showing mercy, but of doing it with zeal and perseverance, for the expressions of "sowing" and of "not fainting" imply this. Then, having exacted a great work, he places its reward close at hand, and makes mention of a new and wondrous harvest. Among husbandmen, not only the sower but also the reaper endures much labor, having to struggle with drought and dust and grievous toil, but in this case none of these exist, as he shows by the words, "for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." By this means he stimulates and draws them on; and he also urges and presses them forward by another motive, saying, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good." As it is not always in our power to sow, so neither is it to show mercy; for when we have been carried hence, though we may desire it a thousand times, we shall be able to effect nothing more. To this argument of ours the Ten Virgins (Mat. xxv. 1 ff.) bear witness, who although they wished it a thousand times, yet were shut out from the bridegroom, because they brought with them no bountiful charity. And so does the rich man who neglected Lazarus (Luke xvi: 19.) for he, being destitute of this succor, although he wept and made many entreaties, won no compassion from the Patriarch, or any one else, but continued destitute of all forgiveness, and tormented with perpetual fire. Therefore he says, "as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men," hereby especially also setting them free from the narrow-mindedness of the Jews. For the whole of their benevolence was confined to their own race, but the rule of life which Grace gives invites both land and sea to the board of charity, only it shows a greater care for its own household.
Ver. 11, 12. "See with how large letters I have written unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised."
Observe what grief posesses his blessed soul. As those who are oppressed with some sorrow, who have lost one of their own kindred, and suffered an unexpected calamity, rest neither by night nor day, because their grief besieges their soul, so the blessed Paul, after a short moral discourse, returns again to that former subject which chiefly disturbed his mind, saying as follows: "see with how large letters I have written unto you with mine own hand." By this he signifies that he had written the whole letter himself, which was a proof of great sincerity. In his other Epistles he himself only dictated, another wrote, as is plain from the Epistle to the Romans, for at its close it is said, "I Tertius, who write the Epistle, salute you;" (Rom. xvi: 22.) but in this instance he wrote the whole himself. And this he did by necessity, not from affection merely, but in order to remove an injurious suspicion. Being charged with acts wherein he had no part, and being reported to preach Circumcision yet to pretend to preach it not, he was compelled to write the Epistle with his own hand, thus laying up beforehand a written testimony. By the expression "what sized," he appears to me to signify, not the magnitude, but, the misshapen appearance of the letters, as if he had said, "Although not well skilled in writing, I have been compelled to write with my own hand to stop the mouth of these traducers."
Ver. 12, 13. "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the Law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh."
Here he shows that they suffered this, not willingly but of necessity, and affords them an opportunity of retreat, almost speaking in their defence, and exhorting them to abandon their teachers with all speed. What is the meaning of "to make a fair show in the flesh?" it means, to be esteemed by men. As they were reviled by the Jews for deserting the customs of their fathers, they desire, says he, to injure you, that they may not have this charged against them, but vindicate themselves by means of your flesh. His object here is to show that they did not so act from respect to God; it is as if he said, This procedure is not founded in piety, all this is done through human ambition; in order that the unbelievers may be gratified by the mutilation of the faithful, they choose to offend God that they may please men; for this is the meaning of, "to make a fair show in the flesh." Then, as a proof that for another reason too they are unpardonable, he again convinces them that, not only in order to please others, but for their own vain glory, they had enjoined this. Wherefore he adds, "that they may glory in your flesh," as if they had disciples, and were teachers. And what is the proof of this? "For not even they themselves," he says, "keep the Law;" even if they did keep it, they would incur grave censure, but now their very purpose is corrupt.
Ver. 14. "But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Truly this symbol is thought despicable; but it is so in the world's reckoning, and among men; in Heaven and among the faithful it is the highest glory. Poverty too is despicable, but it is our boast; and to be cheaply thought of by the public is a matter of laughter to them, but we are elated by it. So too is the Cross our boast. He does not say, "I boast not," nor, "I will not boast," but, "Far be it from me that I should," as if he abominated it as absurd, and invoked the aid of God in order to his success therein. And what is the boast of the Cross? That Christ for my sake took on Him the form of a slave, and bore His sufferings for me the slave, the enemy, the unfeeling one; yea He so loved me as to give Himself up to a curse for me. What can be comparable to this! If servants who only receive praise from their masters, to whom they are akin by nature, are elated thereby, how must we not boast when the Master who is very God is not ashamed of the Cross which was endured for us. Let us then not be ashamed of His unspeakable tenderness; He was not ashamed of being crucified for thy sake, and wilt thou be ashamed to confess His infinite solicitude? It is as if a prisoner who had not been ashamed of his King, should, after that King had come to the prison and himself loosed the chains, become ashamed of him on that account. Yet this would be the height of madness, for this very fact would be an especial ground for boasting.
Ver. 14. "Through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
What he here calls the world is not the heaven nor the earth, but the affairs of life, the praise of men, retinues, glory, wealth, and all such things as have a show of splendor. To me these things are dead. Such an one it behooves a Christian to be, and always to use this language. Nor was he content with the former putting to death, but added another, saying, "and I unto the world," thus implying a double putting to death, and saying, They are dead to me, and I to them, neither can they captivate and overcome me, for they are dead once for all, nor can I desire them, for I too am dead to them. Nothing can be more blessed than this putting to death, for it is the foundation of the blessed life.
Ver. 15, 16. "For neither is circumcision any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
Observe the power of the Cross, to what a pitch it hath raised him! not only hath it put to death for him all mundane affairs, but hath set him far above the Old Dispensation. What can be comparable to this power? for the Cross hath persuaded him, who was willing to be slain and to slay others for the sake of circumcision, to leave it on a level with uncircumcision, and to seek for things strange and marvellous and above the heavens. This our rule of life he calls "a new creature," both on account of what is past, and of what is to come; of what is past, because our soul, which had grown old with the oldness of sin, hath been all at once renewed by baptism, as if it had been created again. Wherefore we require a new and heavenly rule of life. And of things to come, because both the heaven and the earth, and all the creation, shall with our bodies be translated into incorruption. Tell me not then, he says, of circumcision, which now availeth nothing; (for how shall it appear, when all things have undergone such a change?) but seek the new things of grace. For they who pursue these things shall enjoy peace and amity, and may properly be called by the name of" Israel." While they who hold contrary sentiments, although they be descended from him (Israel) and bear his appellation, have yet fallen away from all these things, both the relationship and the name itself. But it is in their power to be true Israelites, who keep this rule, who desist from the old ways, and follow after grace.
Ver. 17. "From henceforth let no man trouble me."
This he says not as though he were wearied or overpowered; he who chose to do and suffer all for his disciples' sake; he who said, "Be instant in season, out of season;" (2 Tim. iv: 2.) he who said, "If peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil;" (2 Tim. ii: 25, 26.) how shall he now become relaxed and fall back? Wherefore does he say this? it is to gird up their slothful mind, and to impress them with deeper fear, and to ratify the laws enacted by himself, and to restrain their perpetual fluctuations.
Ver. 17. "For I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus."
He says not, "I have," but, "I bear," like a man priding himself on trophies and royal ensigns. Although on a second thought it seems a disgrace, yet does this man vaunt of his wounds, and like military standard-bearers, so does he exult in bearing about these wounds. And why does he say this? "More clearly by those wounds than by any argument, than by any language, do I vindicate myself," says he. For these wounds utter a voice louder than a trumpet against my opponents, and against those who say that I play the hypocrite in my teaching, and speak what may please men. For no one who saw a soldier retiring from the battle bathed in blood and with a thousand wounds, would dare to accuse him of cowardice and treachery, seeing that he bears on his body the proofs of his valor, and so ought ye, he says, to judge of me. And if any one desire to hear my defence, and to learn my sentiments, let him consider my wounds, which afford a stronger proof than these words and letters. At the outset of his Epistle he evinced his sincerity by the suddenness of his conversion, at its close he proves it by the perils which attended his conversion. That it might not be objected that he had changed his course with upright intentions, but that he had not continued in the same purpose, he produces his trials, his dangers, his stripes as witnesses that he had so continued.
Then having clearly justified himself in every particular, and proved that he had spoken nothing from anger or malevolence, but had preserved his affection towards them unimpaired, he again establishes this same point by concluding his discourse with a prayer teeming with a thousand blessings, in these words;
Ver. 18. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen."
By this last word he hath sealed all that preceded it. He says not merely, "with you," as elsewhere, but, "with your spirit," thus withdrawing them from carnal things, and displaying throughout the beneficence of God, and reminding them of the grace which they enjoyed, whereby he was able to recall them from all their judaizing errors. For to have received the Spirit came not of the poverty of the Law, but of the righteousness which is by Faith, and to preserve it when obtained came not from Circumcision but from Grace. On this account he concluded his exhoration with a prayer, reminding them of grace and the Spirit, and at the same time addressing them as brethren, and supplicating God that they might continue to enjoy these blessings, thus providing for them a twofold security. For both prayer and teaching, tended to the same thing and together became to them as a double wall. For teaching, reminding them of what benefits they enjoyed, the rather kept them in the doctrine of the Church; and prayer, invoking grace, and exhorting to an enduring constancy, permitted not the Spirit to depart from them. And He abiding in them, all the error of such doctrines as they held was shaken off like dust.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF I/XIII, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.